Putting the Wow Back in Macau
There was the Rumble in the Jungle. There was the Thrilla in Manila. And now we have the Wow in Macau.
Much is being made, too much in the opinion of some, of Zou Shiming’s appearance this weekend in the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Macau. On the plus side, he’s the most decorated amateur in Chinese boxing history, having won three amateur championships and two Olympic gold medals. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but considering the length and breadth of Chinese boxing history, the Boxer Rebellion aside, that means exactly what it means, neither more nor less.
Zou is also 31 years old. To say that’s a little late to be embarking on a pro career is an understatement. His late start can be blamed on Mao, who in an attempt to extricate China from being a vassal state banned boxing as being too Western. But a late start is a late start and no amount of fancy footwork can change that startling fact.
In many ways the attention being lavished on Zou has less to do with him than with Top Rank and the Asian (specifically the Chinese) market. With its population of 1.3 billion, hundreds of millions of TV viewers, and an historic economic explosion—the “sleeping dragon” has indeed awoken. Bob Arum as usual is thinking outside the box. Zou Shiming is the box cutter that makes it possible.
Leaving nothing to chance, Arum has enlisted the services of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach to show Zou the ropes.
‘‘We’re definitely on a fast track with him,’’ Freddie said. ‘‘He’s a real good boxer, but he had a lot of habits we’re trying to change. It’s just a different game now as a professional. When I first saw him, I thought he was a little soft. I was wondering, ‘What’s going to happen the first time Brian (Viloria with whom Zou is sparring) hits him?’ He showed me he’ll fight back. He’s not soft at all.’‘
Arum is sparing no expense. He is bring Las Vegas to Macau, which might be like bringing coal to Newcastle, but he intends to wow the Chinese with flashing lights, billowing smoke (and perhaps funhouse mirrors), as well as the incomparable, and incorrigible, Michael Buffer.
‘‘Boxing has always been used by casinos in Nevada to bring in customers,’’ said Arum. ‘‘They had some of the greatest fights in Nevada. Now, Macau is Las Vegas on steroids. This fight is going to be in more than 200 million homes. You don’t have to be a big economist to know where this is going.’‘
Where this is going is back the future. The paradigm shift may not yet be in full swing, but Bob Arum, with his considerable experience and knowhow, intends to help it on its way.
Lastly, deferring to something known in the vernacular as perspective, Zou Shiming, the man for whom vats of printer’s ink have been spilled and untold column inches devoted, will face Mexico’s Eleazar Valenzuela in a four-round featherweight bout. Valenzuela may hail from South of the Border and all that suggests, but his record is a paltry 2-1-2 with 1 KO.
You do the math.
Zou Shiming’s pro debut will be broadcast live on HBO2 on Saturday, April 6, at 2:00 PM ET/PT. Also on the card, Roman “Rocky” Martinez defends his WBO junior lightweight title defending his title against undefeated No. 1 contender Diego Magdaleno, and flyweight champion Brian Viloria puts his WBA/WBO belts on the line against Juan Francisco Estrada.