Zou's return draws huge audience in China

Zou Shiming, left, defeated Natan Santana Coutinho by eighth-round knockout on Jan. 30. ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

Flyweight Zou Shiming, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, sure is popular in his home country of China.

Top Rank, Zou’s promoter, announced on Tuesday that its “Return of the King” card headlined by Zou’s eighth-round knockout of Natan Santana Coutinho on Jan. 30 at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai drew an audience of 36.5 million viewers in China.

Top Rank said it drew 6.5 million viewers who watched on television on CCTV 5 and 30 million viewers who watched the fight via live stream. Another 12,000 were on hand at the arena.

Zou (7-1, 2 KOs) was fighting for the first time in 10 months following a decision loss to world titleholder Amnat Ruenroeng. Following the fight, Zou had surgery on his shoulder, which he injured in the fight.

The Jan. 30 card also featured Japanese middleweight Ryota Murata (9-0, 6 KOs), a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, who knocked out Gaston Alejandro Vega in the second round.

The card with Zou was the second of the day. Earlier in the day, the same arena hosted the 2016 debut of China's live boxing series, "League of Fists." Between the two cards there were 28 total bouts.

"These events are growing the sport of boxing in China at a tremendous rate," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. "The voracious appetite of the fans and the sponsors proves that mainland China is very fertile territory for our sport. The potential is unlimited and should pay off big benefits in terms of exposure."

Thanks to Zou’s popularity, Arum brought big-time boxing to Macau in China in 2013 and now Top Rank is putting on regular cards on the mainland.