China's Zou ready to defend title

Updated 2017-07-28 12:05:48 Global Times

Former Olympic champ rules out immediate retirement

Chinese boxing star Zou Shi-ming is confident of his WBO flyweight title defense as he faces Japanese challenger Sho Kimura at the Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai on Friday.

"I brought the gold belt back from Las Vegas last year, and now I have the responsibility to keep it in China," Zou vowed Thursday in a press conference.

He won the world title in November in Las Vegas by a unanimous decision, defeating Thailand's Prasitsak Phaprom. His first world title pursuit, -under IBF, was denied by Amnat Ruenroeng of Thailand in 2015.

Kimura is eight years -younger than Zou, ranking in the top seven of Japanese flyweight boxers.

While fans are hoping Zou to continue to sweep the flyweight titles under the four -major boxing bodies - WBO, WBA, WBC and IBF - Zou said he currently does not think that far and has his mind all focused on Friday's fight.

Speculations have been rampant over Zou, now 36, on whether he will retire from the sport soon. The veteran admitted he is leaving the competition, but not right now.

"I don't rule out retirement," he told the Global Times in an exclusive interview. "But personally I don't want to say goodbye."

The former Olympic champion also noted an athlete -often retires due to age or injury, which are under his consideration, but he declined to set a date for his own retirement.

Though Zou has made a lot of progress in promoting boxing on his own, many Chinese still consider boxing as a "brutal" competition.

"People who know me and watch my fight won't consider boxing as brutal," Zou said. "To make more people aware of this, I have to continue fighting."

He noted it was also a reason why he decided to turn professional after two golds in the Olympic Games, where boxing competitions are regarded amateur.

Zou turned pro in 2013, a -period he said was the "toughest" in his career.

"Other than understanding the differences in the fighting tactics and regulations, a fighter also needs to build strong mental capability," he said. "Fighting by only relying on muscles does not always lead to a win."

But he has set his long-term plan to develop professional boxing in China, as he has set up a platform to help more fighters to engage in professional bouts.

Five of his "academy" -boxers are in line to fight against foreign fighters before Friday's main fight, as Zou said he does not set a "must-win" requirement for them.

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