Hong Kong boxer Rex Tso shares what he’s learned from loss - like failing to qualify for the Olympics

  • In the final part of our series, the “Wonder Kid” explains why he ended his professional career at its height to turn amateur.
  • After losing a chance at 2020 Tokyo Olympics, he has his sights set on the Asian Games.
Kelly Fung |

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In the second instalment of this two-part series, Rex Tso shares the lessons he’s learned from loss. Photo: Wayne Media/RCT Hong Kong

In the second instalment of our two-part series, Hong Kong’s top boxer, Rex Tso Sing-yu, talks about lessons he’s learned from his losses and dreams. Catch up on part one here!

Most of us stick to what we’re good at, whether it’s academics, sports, or arts. Failure isn’t easy, so if we’re doing well, why stop? However, Hong Kong’s “Wonder Kid” boxer is not like the rest of us.

In 2018, he ended his professional career at its height - right after achieving a 22-match winning streak. He stepped out of his comfort zone to dream of something bigger, even if that meant he would lose.

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In hopes of becoming the first Hong Kong boxer to compete at the Olympic Games in 57 years, he turned amateur. It was his “unfulfilled dream” from the age of 20, when he had his first chance to try to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“I was not fully prepared,” Tso confesses, “and got wiped out.”

There’s no doubt that Tso has immense talent, but his failure to qualify for the 2008 Games just goes to show that talent isn’t everything.

Boxer Rex Tso trains at his gym, RCT Hong Kong. Photo: Wayne Media/RCT Hong Kong
“I don’t really believe in such a thing as talent,” he admits, adding that at an international level, it’s really your stamina and dedication that get you far.

This lesson is reflected in his fifth match against Filipino Aldrin Janer in 2012 in the Philippines. As the audience booed and yelled that he should go home, Tso knew that he was about to lose.

With only three minutes on the clock in the four-round bout, he was determined to give it his all.

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Miraculously, he scored a TKO. Applause erupted from the stunned audience, and one of the judges dubbed him the Wonder Kid.

His tenacity and resilience shine most when he is put to the test.

In a 2017 fight against former WBA world champion Kohei Kono of Japan, a clash of heads left Tso’s eye so swollen he could barely open it. Yet he continued to fight.

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“I didn’t stop until I heard the bell,” says Tso, adding, “all I could think about was how I could continue to score while protecting my injury.”

That match earned Tso the 22nd win in his streak, but the dedicated boxer knew that keeping the streak going wouldn’t be his focus forever.

As he ended his pro career for another shot at the Olympics, he reflected on his previous failure, and asked himself, “What if I had prepared for the matches? Would I have gone further?”

Tso said he doesn’t really believe in talent, and that stamina and dedication are what help you succeed. Photo: Wayne Media/RCT Hong Kong
After extensive training, Tso fought to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He won the first bout at the Asia/Oceania qualifiers against Bakhtovar Sagizov of Tajikistan. But, in the quarter finals, he faced world champion Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov of Uzbekistan, and lost.

In the Olympic box-off, he lost for the second time to an up-and-coming boxer, Daniyal Shahbakhsh from Iran. He still had one more chance - a qualifier in Paris, but, it was cancelled due to Covid-19.

He was saddened not because he didn’t nab the winning ticket to the Games, but because the urge to win had filled his heart.

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“I was a bull seeing red,” he says, believing his desire to win had affected his performance in the ring.

“I don’t know what I was doing,” he laments. Even though he had planned meticulously beforehand, things did not go his way. “That’s what upset me.”

“I locked myself up in the room for a day. I cried and let it all out. After that, I moved on.”

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Now, his next goal is to compete in this year’s National Games of China and next year’s Asian Games.

As he continues his training, he also has not ruled out competing in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“I want to continue doing well as a Hong Kong boxer, so that I can pave the way for others, and create more support for the sport in Hong Kong,” says the 33-year-old.

Reflected in the determination of his earlier career wins and his Olympic pursuits, Tso has always kept in mind the wise words of his late father, who was a seven-time amateur boxing champion in the 1970s: “Treasure every opponent and every match because they allow you to learn.”

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