Zou liv­ing his world boxing ti­tle dream

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By MUR­RAY GREIG in Bei­jing mur­ray­greig@chi­nadaily.com.cn

As me­thod­i­cal as a sur­geon and cool as an as­sas­sin, Zou Shim­ing punched his way to the va­cant WBO world fly­weight ti­tle on Satur­day night in Las Ve­gas.

China’s two-time Olympic gold medal­ist from Zunyi, Guizhou Prov­ince, was all but per­fect in pound­ing out a 12-round de­ci­sion over Thai­land’s Pr­a­sit­sak Phaprom on the un­der­card of Manny Pac­quiao’s wel­ter­weight ti­tle tri­umph over Jessie Var­gas at the Thomas and Mack Cen­ter.

Two judges scored the bout 120-107 while the third had it 119-108 for Zou, who be­came just the sec­ond Chi­nese boxer to win a ma­jor world ti­tle after Kun­ming’s Zhang Chaozhong, who won the WBC strawweight crown in 2012.

“My dream is now re­al­ized ... all the hard work paid off,” Zou, 35, said in a TV in­ter­view mo­ments after be­ing pre­sented with the ti­tle belt.

“I didn’t re­ally feel pres­sure; I was calm and re­laxed through­out the fight. Now I am an Olympic cham­pion, a pro cham­pion ... and a world cham­pion.”

Zou fought like a champ from the open­ing bell, us­ing his 10-cen­time­ter height ad­van­tage to dic­tate a dis­tance that Phaprom was never able to vi­o­late with mean­ing­ful vi­o­lence.

Since his last out­ing — a 10-round de­ci­sion over Hun­gary’s Jozef Aj­tai in June — Zou and his Hall of Fame trainer, Fred­die Roach, made some sub­tle ad­just­ments to open up punch­ing an­gles, and the re­sult was spec­tac­u­lar.

After deck­ing Phaprom with a short right hook late in the sec­ond round, Zou took com­plete com­mand in the third, land­ing an im­pres­sive 52 per­cent of his punches.

The sce­nario was re­peated over and over for the re­main­der of the fight: Phaprom des­per­ately try­ing to bull his way in­side, and Zou calmly tee­ing off with vi­cious rights be­hind a pis­ton-like jab.

In im­prov­ing to 9-1, Zou landed 347 of 778 punches (45 per­cent), high­lighted by bril­liant bom­bard­ment in rounds 6 and 7 that landed with an as­ton­ish­ing 63 per­cent ac­cu­racy.

Phaprom, 35, had scored 12 straight KOs since los­ing to Zou in Ma­cao two years ago. He dropped to 39-2-2.

“He’s dirty as hell,” Roach said of the Thai when the re­match was an­nounced.

“The last time we fought him, Pr­a­sitak was head-butting and land­ing low blows through­out the whole fight. I’ve warned my guy to be ready to re­spond this time.” There was no need. Zou never gave Phaprom the op­por­tu­nity to turn it into a street fight, keep­ing the pres­sure on the smaller man by stalk­ing rather than chas­ing.

ETHAN MILLER / GETTY IM­AGES / AFP

China’s Zou Shim­ing knocks down Thai­land’s Pr­a­sit­sak Phaprom in the sec­ond round of their WBO fly­weight cham­pi­onship fight at the Thomas and Mack Cen­ter in Las Ve­gas on Satur­day. Zou won byu­nan­i­mous de­ci­sion.

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