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Zou Shiming’s professional example set to lead boxing revolution in China

Global Times (2013-01-28 P31)

In all the excitement over Li Na's thrilling run to the Australian Open final last week, another sporting development was largely overlooked - and it could prove to be even more significant for Chinese sport.

Two-time Olympic boxing gold medalist Zou Shiming has turned professional, signing for US promoter Bob Arum's Top Rank group, and will make his pro debut on April 6 in Macao.

Zou is China's first Olympic boxing medalist and by far the biggest name in the sport here, but should he have even a moderately successful professional career, it could pave the way for aspiring Chinese fighters to follow suit.

There are two main questions surrounding Zou's decision. First, his pro debut will come just one month shy of his 32nd birthday and it's unknown how Zou's stamina will stand up to 12 rounds of professional boxing.

Arum, the promoter, compared him to Cuban boxers who have generally tended to turn pro later in their careers, but are able to challenge for world titles within six to eight bouts, given their wealth of amateur experience.

But Arum himself is the other question mark. He has undoubtedly played a major role in promoting boxing over the years, and currently represents several elite fighters, including the legendary six-time world champion Manny Pacquiao.

But the octogenarian is not universally popular: last month, the outspoken UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) president Dana White called Arum "an idiot," "a moron" and "the dumbest promoter in the history of the world." This was because Arum had let Pacquiao face Juan Manuel Marquez for a fourth time after being largely outclassed in their third meeting, though Pacquiao did win a controversial split decision. To no one's surprise, Marquez knocked Pacquiao out. What's more, Arum says he is looking at a fifth fight between the two, despite reports that claim the Filipino is showing signs of Parkinson's disease.

That's the side of Arum that one hopes Zou can avoid, but he does know the business: on occasion, Pacquiao has made tens of millions of dollars for a single fight, and Arum says he thinks Zou could surpass that level.

If he does, expect boxing in China to become very popular very quickly.

The author is a Beijing-based freelance writer.

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