Sport Boxing

China’s golden hero punching above his weight

Written by Pai Yao

This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2013 issue of World Gaming magazine.

He may weigh a tiny 49kg but Zou Shiming is about to become China’s next big thing. Already a national hero after becoming the country’s first boxing gold medalist at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and defending his title in London last year, Zou made his professional boxing debut in Macau in early April. His unanimous decision win over Eleazar Valenzuela was the first step in his quest for global domination. Despite being in high demand, Zou was gracious enough to sit down with World Gaming in the week leading up to his debut bout to discuss his boxing career, China’s continuing rise as a global sporting power and his dreams for the future.

World Gaming magazine: Zou Shiming, thank you so much for agreeing to speak to the readers of World Gaming, it’s certainly a very exciting week for you so we appreciate your time very much.

Zou Shiming: My pleasure.

WGM: Of course, everyone knows you have been involved in fighting for a very long time. You started learning martial arts when you were just 14 and you’ve had a very famous and long amateur boxing career spanning well over a decade with three world championships and of course a bronze medal in 2004 in Athens, followed by Olympic gold in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London. The 2008 gold medal in Beijing was an incredible highlight for both you as a person and the entire nation of China, being China’s first ever Olympic gold medal in boxing. Universally acknowledged as the most successful amateur boxer ever from China, you have now turned professional.

ZS: Thanks for your magazine’s interest in Chinese boxing stepping onto the world stage. Although I’m busy with my training, I feel very happy that professional boxing can get people’s attention, so I appreciate your interview.

Zou Shiming signing autographs at The Venetian

Zou Shiming signing autographs at The Venetian

WGM: You follow tennis star Li Na, hurdler Liu Xiang and basketball ace Yao Ming as yet another Chinese national making a splash in international sport. Can you please tell us a little about your feelings in being a two-time gold medallist and representing the nation as both an amateur at the Olympics and now as a professional boxer?

ZS: First of all, I want to say those athletes you mentioned have all made great contributions to sport in China. They set very good examples for me. This is the beginning of my professional boxing career. I hope to get good results on the professional stage. I really believe more and more Chinese athletes will start to show themselves on the world stage, especially in the men’s combat events like boxing.

WGM: Some have said that you left it a long time before turning pro. Why did you leave it so long?

ZS: After the Beijing Olympics, my biggest wish was to turn professional. However, back then Chinese amateur boxing had made some achievements, but was it just a one-off thing? Another gold medal overseas was expected to prove that our boxing could have sustainable success so I continued for another four years. Of course, it was very meaningful for me to defend my title at the London Olympics. During those four years, I matured a lot. In some ways, the extra four years was helpful for me to turn pro today.

WGM: What differences do you feel there is between fighting styles in amateur versus pro boxing? Does your training differ and do you focus on different skills?

ZS: The cycle of the Olympics is long. You start preparing for it four years prior to the Games. However, in professional boxing you only get to know who your opponent is a few months before the fight. Also, in professional boxing, you are only fighting against one opponent. In the Olympics, you only fight three rounds in one match while in professional boxing you fight 12 rounds. In amateur boxing, you have very limited time to show your skills and you need to score points quickly. You want to knock your opponent down but eventually you win by the points you get. Due to those differences the training for amateur and professional boxing is different. Before I turned pro, the focus of my fights was more about speed but pro boxing requires more power and you need to knock your opponent down. Therefore relatively speaking, my current training is more about power and the ways to knock my opponent down.

Zou Shiming wins gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Zou Shiming wins gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

WGM: On a personal level, how do you feel about your professional debut at The Venetian on Saturday night? Are you nervous?

ZS: No, not nervous but excited. I dreamed about having this stage when I was a kid. Sometimes I would imagine what it would be like when the fight starts – the lights, the audience, the cheering – and I couldn’t help but get goosebumps and feel very excited.

WGM: What are your short term and long term goals as a professional fighter?

ZS: In the short term, I want to win each fight; in the long term, I will do my best to get the golden belt I dreamed about. Of course, in the longer term I hope to defend my title again and again.

WGM: How long do you want to fight for?

ZS: I hope to get the golden belt in a year. As for what happens next, I just hope to do things step by step.

WGM: You are known for your fast hands and moving quickly in the ring, but some have said you may run into trouble against the heavy punching in the pro arena. What do you say to those people?

ZS: My fast movement is not only in offence, but also in defence. Of course I’m aware that power is my shortcoming. I will strengthen it. In my two-month training in the US, people have seen my progress in this.

WGM: When you are away from the ring and training, what do you like to do with your spare time?

ZS: Video games! (laughs) Also, I am studying English so I can communicate with my coach better. America has a much-developed boxing culture. It’s a very good opportunity for me to study and receive training there. I hope I can learn well and bring the culture back to China so more Chinese can have this stage too. In the two-month training in America I trained hard, so I mainly just rested when I had spare time. Of course, I walked around sightseeing a bit as well.

WGM: Zou Shiming, thank you for your time and you can be sure we will be following your pro career closely. Good luck!

ZS: Welcome to the fight. Thank you!