A lesson in judgment: why Rex Tso’s decision to turn down millions to focus on training will pay off

The Wonder Kid should be applauded as he walks away from potential millions in endorsement contracts so that he can get himself in prime condition for his October showdown with Kohei Kono

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 August, 2017, 10:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 August, 2017, 7:26pm

Hong Kong boxing hero Rex Tso Sing-yu can teach Chinese superstar Zou Shiming a good lesson – not in the ring, although that’s entirely possible – but a lesson in getting one’s priorities straight.

Hong Kong’s unbeaten super flyweight has made training his priority above everything else – even at the expense of making potential millions.

The 30-year-old southpaw was offered at least eight endorsement contracts since the summer began but he turned them all down.

Why? The reason is simple: Tso wants to be in optimum condition for his October 7 showdown with Japan’s former two-time WBA world champion Kohei Kono.

Now, Tso could have easily made a million or two – everything from opening a shop or promoting another brand name to the masses.

The Hong Kong star had been busy earlier this year shooting commercials for a home appliances and consumer electronics retailer and a telecommunications company, but he has now put his foot down and said no more commercial activities as he wisely chooses to focus on the fight he has been craving for years.

Shooting a commercial can take days, even weeks – and that means time spent away from the gym. Tso knows he should be hitting the bags instead of promoting this, that or the other.

Tso has one shot against the experienced 36-year-old Tokyo-based fighter and he doesn’t want to mess up his chances. He’s thinking about his future above everything else.

The Wonder Kid has been eyeing Kono since July 2015, and no amount of money is going to change his mind to turn up on October 7 in absolutely prime condition for his 22nd fight as a professional.

There might be a clause in his contract that will enable Tso to fight Kono again in a rematch should he lose, but the Hong Kong star is determined to keep his unbeaten record intact.

Show me the money? No thanks, says Rex Tso as he turns down millions to focus on Kono fight

And he doesn’t want to disappoint anyone. That’s Tso for you and he should be applauded for getting his priorities in order.

“The Hong Kong crowd lifts me when ever I fight at home,” said Tso. “I can’t disappoint them. So many people want me to win and they have supported me.

“I have to do my utmost to prepare for the fight. Training has been so hard and intense. Even if it means throwing up during training, I’ll keep going because I must. I’m fighting Kohei Kono, a very experienced former world champion. I can’t take my chances.”

It was different scenario six years ago when Tso was a young professional coming through the ranks. A young bashful kid, virtually unknown in Hong Kong or even the local boxing scene, Tso was trying make a name for himself.

His first fight in 2011 was attended by just 300 spectators and it ended in a financial loss for his team at DEF Promotions and for his manager and now promoter Jay Lau Chi-yuen. But how things have changed in 2017 as another sell-out crowd of 8,000 is expected for the showdown.

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Tso is now a big star, but after going face-to-face with Kono in this month’s press conference, the Wonder Kid is unlikely to take part in any more promotional activities until the official weigh-in for the fight on October 6.

Now this might not have been the case for Chinese superstar Zou, whose shambolic preparation for his WBO flyweight title fight against Sho Kimura last month backfired in Shanghai.

Zou decided months ago to promote the fight himself, guaranteeing himself a much larger slice of the pie, but it was at the expense of proper training, which resulted in his sad demise and Kimura roughed him up in the 11th round before knocking him out.

Since leaving US promoter Top Rank last year to be his own man, Zou’s training suffered as he bit off more than he could chew.

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There were rumours his hands were not even wrapped properly and he was given too much water during his fight, hence the reason Zou slipped twice in his corner during the fight.

It seemed Zou reverted to his amateur days, which is a big no-no for a professional, especially one who was making his first world title defence.

Zou has made good money since turning professional in January 2013. He was one of the highest paid rookies ever when he accepted US$300,000 to fight at Cotai Arena in Macau, where he made his professional debut in April 2013.

That’s unheard of money and a hell of a lot more money than what Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali or George Foreman made on their debuts.

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But money isn’t everything as Tso knows all well. While Tso has a top chance of beating Kono and going on to earn a world title shot in the near future, Zou’s future hangs in the balance, probably regretting that he allowed money to cloud his better judgement. It’s a bitter lesson that he learned the hard way.