Defeated Zou is in no hurry to hang up his gloves

After losing his WBO world title bout in Shanghai, Zou Shiming has insisted that he will carrying on fighting despite talks about his retirement.

Three days after Zou Shiming lost his first WBO world title to Japan’s Sho Kimura in Shanghai on July 28, China's best-known boxer made it known on his personal Weibo account that he had no plans to retire.

“I believe in fate, but I’m not resigned to it. Life goes on, so does fighting. A man must continue fighting to recover what he has lost,” the 36-year-old Guizhou Province native said.

SHINE

Zou Shiming's post on Weibo says he's not yet ready to hang up his gloves.

Zou’s stunning defeat to the relatively unknown Japanese not only broke the hearts of the 10,000 spectators at Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Pudong and the millions who were watching on television and Internet, but also struck a blow to Zou’s plans of promoting boxing in China.

The WBO flyweight title defense fight was Zou’s first professional bout that was organized by his own company Zouxuan Sports, and managed by his wife Ran Yingying. Over 100 domestic and international media organizations were invited to cover the event, including some entertainment media.

Ti Gong

Zou's defense of his WBO flyweight bout attracted over 100 domestic and international media.

Zouxuan Sports has contracts with about 20 boxers. They fought in the five undercard bouts before the main fight. Two pop singers also entertained the near-sold-out crowd before Zou's fight against Kimura.

But the eight-week preparation for such an important bout was too short for Zou, who had to lose nearly 7 kilograms before the weigh-in of his 11th professional bout.

“The preparation for every new bout is much more difficult than the previous ones (because of age)," Zou tells Shanghai Daily. He also admits that trying to handle everything on his own proved to be too much in the end. 

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Pop singer Zhang Jie performed before the main bout.

Zou turned professional at the age of 32 after winning two Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012. Partnering with Chinese sports promoter SECA, Zou signed a contract with US boxing promoter Top Rank, and was subsequently trained by Freddie Roach, Manny Pacquiao’s coach.

Top Rank was also keen on the Chinese market after noticing Zou’s reputation and recognition in China, a country where professional boxing is still in its infancy.

But despite Zou's hard work, his nimble boxing style and amateur skills proved to be an impediment in his professional career.

Top Rank picked Zou’s opponents carefully. After years of effort, Zou won his first world title last November, beating Thailand’s Prasitsak Phaprom in an unanimous decision in Las Vegas for the vacant WBO flyweight belt.

On his return, Zou started promoting his own company Zouxuan Sports. During a pre-bout press conference in Shanghai, Zou addressed some of the media in English rather than Chinese.

“I wanted to be more international, because in future we will be contacting and maybe cooperating with boxing federations and Olympic committees, and English will be helpful,” Zou tells Shanghai Daily.

Zou says he spent about a month correcting his pronunciations with a Beijing-based English teacher.

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Zou Shiming's two sons also performed in front of the 10,000 audience at Oriental Sports Center.

According to WBO regulations, Zou had to secure a fight before August 6 or faced losing the belt. The 36-year-old started preparing for the fight just eight weeks before the big day, which may have worked for some boxers but clearly didn't for the champion.

Zou’s challenger Kimura, a part-time restaurant worker, is much younger but hardly a known name in his native Japan. 

In the bout, Zou stuck to his defensive style, stealing points with counter-punches. But his lack of stamina was evident and in the 11th round he hit the floor after a barrage of punches from a much younger opponent, whom he had kept at bay prior to that.

Ti Gong

Zou Shiming's lack of stamina was exposed in the 11th round.

Kimura figured out quite early that the only way he could win was to be aggressive against Zou, who was scoring key points. The judges’ score-sheet showed that at the end of the 10th round, two out of the three judges favored Zou.

Kimura's victory made him an instant celebrity back home, while questions were raised about Zou’s career. After his defeat, Zou was unable to hold back tears in front of a stunned crowd. 

“My tears are not because of my defeat, but for China’s boxing,” Zou addressed the crowd afterward. “For a long time, China’s boxing has not been understood or paid enough attention to. I've boxed for 22 years, and what I want is that one day, when I lose a fight and cannot fight any more, China’s boxing will continue to be supported.”

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Zou Shiming's wife, Ran Yingying, roots for her hubby. 

Zou’s latest post on Weibo showed his determination to continue fighting, but every new bout proves to be more difficult than the previous ones. Despite that, he remains China's most successful boxer. 

“My path (to success) is almost impossible for the other boxers to follow," Zou told Shanghai Daily before the fight. “To win two Olympic gold medals and three world championship titles, besides the regional crowns, you need at least 10 years to achieve that.”

“I have taken a lot of detours, as well as lots of wrong and bitter paths. For future boxers, they can avoid these detours and unnecessary ordeals," he says. "Some people are suitable for Olympic (amateur) boxing, some for professional boxing, but you need to find the right platform. To seek a professional career, you need to start early.”

Zou has invested in a 10,000-square-meter boxing club in Pudong, which is still under construction and will likely open early next year.

“Apart from boxing courses and related activities, there will also be restaurants, bars and shops in the complex, a boxing-themed comprehensive pavilion,” says Zou. “The purpose is to attract more people to experience boxing, or just get to know about it.”

Zouxuan Sports plans to organize a ranking league for its boxers in October, seek out potential talents and send them abroad for competitions.

“For the contract boxers, our club will provide them with basic support and help them make a living in the city. We will provide coaches and training assistants. The boxers can pay back by their appearance fees, etc. We want to build a platform for them with my experience,” Zou says.

The Guizhou native says he gives regular instructions to the young boxers during training. 

“I used to concentrate only on myself in training and never cared about others. Now it will be different ... it will be like taking care of family members,” says Zou.

Ti Gong

Zou Shiming remains the most successful boxer in China.

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