Shanghai, China: He is a two-time Olympic gold medallist and reigning world champion, but Chinese boxing star Zou Shiming is eyeing an even greater prize: making the sport big in his homeland.
The 36-year-old defends his World Boxing Organization (WBO) flyweight title for the first time next week when he faces Japan’s Sho Kimura here, and is targeting a fourth-round knockout.
After a brilliant amateur career Zou turned professional in 2013 — at the relatively late age of 31 — and last November won the world title in Las Vegas to improve to a pro record of 9-1 with two KOs.
Now he wants to harness his fame to put boxing on a par at home with more popular sports.
“In the West, they already have a long history of boxing and everyone of all ages watch, but in China this is still something we’ve to work hard on,” he said.
“The attention it gets here is not like some of our more conventional sports such as badminton and table tennis that lots of kids practise and play. We want to tell everyone in China that Chinese people have a Zou Shiming who brought back the belt from Las Vegas and kept it here, so that everyone will say, ‘If Zou Shiming can, so can other Chinese’.”
With the end of his career in sight — he declined to say when he would retire — the affable Zou is turning his hand to promotion and mentoring the next generation.