Chinese boxer Zou Shiming (C) celebrates with US promoter Bob Arum (R) during a ceremony in Beijing on January 23 after signing with Top Rank promotions. Photograph: AFP
Bob Arum has been promoting historic boxing bouts for the past 50 years involving the likes of Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler and Manny Pacquiao, but even at the age of 81, he has lost none of his appetite for the sport and is still looking to move into new markets.
His focus at the moment is on April 6 when Top Rank, his promotional vehicle, will put on a card in Macau headlined by a world title fight between Brian Viloria and Juan Francisco Estrada and featuring the professional debut of China’s double Olympic gold medal-winning fighter Zou Shiming.
There will also be a spot on the card for undefeated Filipino Milan Melindo.
When asked, Arum confirmed that this was just the beginning as far as Top Rank’s aspirations in the region are concerned.
“This is our entry into the Asian market and we felt that this kid [Shiming] having the unbelievable amateur experience and the results he’s had can contend at the highest level in the lighter weight divisions much sooner than fighters that are younger and don’t have the experience.”
The “kid” is 30 years old and has won the World Championships twice as well as winning gold medals at both the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Games. Shiming is the most successful amateur in the history of Chinese boxing and Arum is clearly confident he can enjoy the same sort of success in the professional arena.
No opponent has been confirmed for Shiming’s professional debut but as he is clearly being groomed for an eventual world title shot, Arum probably won’t want to give him too much of a tough test at this early stage.
The veteran promoter is excited about the possibilities of managing a popular Chinese fighter and believes fervently that Shiming will help him break into a potentially lucrative market.
“He is one of the big heroes in China, a country that has one billion, 400 million people. We are talking about such vast amounts of people it is very, very attractive to a promoter.
“Also, all over Asia there are what we call the overseas Chinese, ethnic Chinese who are Malays, Filipinos... but they are still Chinese and they would be attracted to a Chinese sportsman.”
Arum’s confidence will be put to the test on April 6 because the Venetian in Macau, where the card is taking place, has the capacity to contain up to 20,000 fight fans. While all eyes will inevitably be on Shiming, the main attraction will be a bout between Viloria and Estrada, which will have the WBO Flyweight title on the line.
Filipino-American Viloria (32-3-0-2) will be defending his belt for the fourth time and is coming off a thrilling 10th round TKO win over Mexico’s Hernan Marquez, whereas Estrada (28-2), also from Mexico, is moving up in weight after coming up short in a recent shot at the WBA Light Flyweight title.
Melindo is the mandatory challenger for Viloria’s belt, but for the time being he will have to contend with a spot on the same card as the champion and will be taking on an as yet unnamed opponent in another flyweight clash.
Arum’s most famous fighter, Manny Pacquiao, has seen his hopes of fighting in Asia this April dashed but the veteran promoter is determined to move into the market and if the Macau show is successful, it could lead to regular Top Rank cards on this side of the world.