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Zou unimpressive on pro debut, but win keeps world title bid on track

By Mark Dreyer (Global Times)

09:45, April 08, 2013

The world saw a new Zou Shiming on Saturday night as he made his professional boxing debut. As expected, he beat 18-year-old Mexican Eleazar Valenzuela, but the humble, calm persona that had helped Zou win three Olympic medals - two of them gold - had been replaced with a hyped up version of his former self, and it nearly led to his downfall.

In the lead-up to the fight, Zou was as gracious as ever, patiently answering boneheaded questions from journalists who had no more of an idea about boxing than the rest of us know about winning Olympic gold.

But perhaps the buildup - the month spent training in Las Vegas, the theme song written specifically for this fight, the unheard of $300,000 payday for a pro debut - finally got too much.

It's not often that a four-round flyweight bout tops a strong boxing card, but that tells you everything about the marketing behind Zou. He entered the ring, as countless boxers before him have done, lapping up the applause and punching the air, but for Zou it was out of character. It was almost as if he thought that was what was expected of him, now that he's a professional.

George Foreman, who knows a thing or two about translating Olympic success into a world title, wisely remarked that pro debuts and title fights make boxers do strange things, and Zou's emotion carried over into his performance.

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