Olympic champion opens boxing center to cultivate future talents
Two-time Olympic champion boxer Zou Shiming is reluctant to bid farewell to the ring, but is starting to place his hope on the younger generation after opening his boxing center in Shanghai’s Pudong New Area.
Apart from training facilities and boxing rings, the No. 1 Sports Center on Expo Avenue also has a restaurant, roof bar and office area.
The center announced its opening early this week at a “boxing gala” during which the Shanghai International Boxing Summit was held, as well as a WBC Bout Night. Six bouts were scheduled including two belt bouts between the center’s contract Chinese boxers and foreign opponents.
“We spent a whole year putting this place up,” Zou tells Shanghai Daily. “I took part in everything, including the installation of electricity and air conditioners. The center will serve as a platform of boxing culture exchange, youth training and public fitness.”
Zou’s company is based at the center. He created a boxing brand “China Boxing Union” last year, which now owns about 20 contract boxers. Most of them were selected by Zou.
“When the center hosts competitions, they are boxers representing the China Boxing Union. The rest of the time, they are boxing coaches,” says Zou.
The center plans to provide boxing courses for the public as well as training for future boxers and referees.
One of China’s best-known boxers, Zou won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012. He turned professional at the age of 31 in 2013, and won his first professional title – the WBO International flyweight title – in Macau in 2014.
His last fight was in July 2017 when the Guizhou Province native lost to the relatively unknown Japanese boxer Sho Kimura at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in his WBO flyweight title defense. The heart-breaking loss in his home arena was also Zou’s first professional bout organized by his own company Zouxuan Sports after his split with previous promoting company SECA.
A hospital medical report released five months after the defeat put Zou’s boxing career in jeopardy. According to the report by Shanghai Changzheng Hospital, Zou suffered multiple fractures to the orbit of both eyes. Slight cataracts and vitreous opacities were also diagnosed.
Zou injured his left eye in a fight against Thailand’s Prasitsak Phaprom in 2014. A serious relapse occurred at the end of last year, and Zou had been suffering from poor eyesight in his left eye since then.
“I’m still hesitating whether to have surgery,” says Zou. “Conservative treatments are being taken, but the progress is very little.”
“Mentally, I have adjusted myself quite well. The pressure used to be huge as I had to hide information about my eye injury so that the opponent would not make use of it. Now it’s no longer a secret, and I’m having a more enriched life.”
Even at the age of 37, Zou says it’s not time to announce his retirement yet.
“I have been teaching the young boxers, including bout strategies. They will be fighting for me. I’m building up a platform for the young boxers and give them more competition opportunities. I will use my 23-year experience to help them make fewer mistakes in their career development.
Zou says he wants to create job opportunities for some retired boxers who had been struggling with life after retirement due to a lack of education.
“I want them to work and find self-recognition back,” he says. “I still keep training. Now my office and training court are in the same venue where I can train together with my family. I have to say it’s the kind of life I had been looking forward to.”
Zou says boxing was everything for him, though he doesn’t want his children to devote all their lives to one sport.
“Boxing changed my life. I don’t know what I would be doing if I was not a boxer. Boxing helped some people get rid of poverty back in my times. Now the younger generation have better opportunities and wider choices.
“I would love to see my children take up boxing as a hobby, but they are free. Boxing doesn’t have to be everything for them.”
Meanwhile, Zou’s wife Ran Yingying, a former TV hostess, was named president of World Boxing Council China by WBC Global Vice President Robert Brooks Yalen, and the Shanghai No. 1 Sports Center also became the headquarters of WBC China.
“The connection with WBC will help us introduce more advanced ideas and training methods from abroad,” says Ran. “We will spread boxing culture, especially among the younger generation, and encourage them to take part in the sport.
“Boxing is not only about knock-outs. For boys, it’s a way to showcase courage and strength. For girls, it’s also a good sport and a method of self-protection,” she says.