It’s rare to see an an event in which a boxer on the undercard of a Manny Pacquiao main event receives a similar level of attention and support as the Filipino superstar. Judging by the flashbulbs going off at Wednesday’s press event in a ballroom of the Venetian Macao, it’s safe to say that Saturday’s main event is two-time Olympic gold-medalist Zou Shiming’s as much as it is Pacquiao’s.
While his professional record is a paltry 5-0, with just one knockout, as an amateur, few people in the history of the sport were as successful as Shiming was. And judging by the crowds trailing Shiming’s entourage as he approached the press conference on Wednesday, and the countless request for selfies, it’s safe to say that, as a boxing superstar, he has officially “arrived.” At least in China.
“The real reason why we are here, in Macao, is because of Zou Shiming,” said Top Rank CEO Bob Arum. While Manny Pacquiao’s status as an international boxing superstar is unrivaled, there are a lot of eggs being put in the Shiming basket this weekend. At the podium, the former-Olympian seemed infinitely more confident than he did at the Pacquiao-Rios press event one year ago and he looks like he is handling the pressure quite well.
Let’s hope he carries that new-found swagger into the ring with him on Saturday. In a country with 1.4 billion people, but an abysmal shortage of boxing talent, a lot will be riding on Shiming’s shoulders when he steps into the ring against the undefeated, but highly over-matched, Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym (27-0, 12 KO) from Thailand.
The event will be shown live in hundreds of millions of homes on Sunday morning, Macao time. While not many boxing pundits expect the former Olympian to lose against his Thai rival, crazier things have happened.
Boxing is turning into big business in Macao, quite possibly surpassing the profitability of similar events in Las Vegas and New York. That said, we can be sure that joining the Chinese people in their quiet support of Shiming, we can expect the same from executives at Sands Entertainment, Top Rank, and those that stand to profit within mainland China and the city of Macao.