- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Chinese hero Zou Shiming is on the doorstep of fighting for a flyweight world title just 15 months and four fights into his professional career.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist fights for the fifth time as a professional when he faces Luis De La Rosa (23-3-1, 13 KOs) of Colombia on Saturday (HBO2, same-day tape, 5 p.m. ET/PT) at the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Macao in Macau.
The bout will be the first scheduled 10-rounder for Zou (4-0, 1 KO), who likely will next fight for a 112-pound world title in the fall if he beats De La Rosa.
"It may be unusual to move this fast to a 10-round fight but I have confidence in my team and if they think I'm ready, then I will be ready," Zou said through an interpreter. "I am not nervous about facing a vastly-more experienced fighter like De La Rosa. I'm very excited about the opportunity. He is the type of fighter I need to beat to earn a world title shot.
"I do feel the pressure of my fans in China to meet their expectations. But my amateur experience, including three Olympics and two World Championships, has prepared me for that pressure. I feel that my style and power are improving and that has bolstered my confidence."
De La Rosa said his professional experience will trump Zou's amateur pedigree.
"I'm going to be facing a fighter with a great amateur background, but I'm a professional fighter with a lot of experience, and I'm here to win," De La Rosa said through an interpreter. "Zou Shiming is a great fighter, but I'm really experienced at a professional level. When I was told about this fight, I immediately took it. I didn't have to think twice. I have been training for four months.
"I'm ready to take home the victory. Zou Shiming should fear me, because on [Saturday], in front of all his fans at the Venetian Macao, I'm going make it a nightmare for him."
Zou, 33, went the distance in his first three fights -- first four rounds and then six rounds apiece in his next two fights.
Finally, in February, Zou, fighting with a more professional style and sitting down on his punches, scored his first knockout when he stopped Yachting Kokietgym in the seventh round of his first scheduled eight-rounder.
Zou and Freddie Roach, his Hall of Fame trainer, are both pleased with how well he is coming along.
"I am pleased with my progress as a professional fighter but I want to show more of what Freddie Roach has been teaching me," said Zou, who won Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012 and bronze in 2004, not to mention three world amateur championships gold medals in 2005, 2007 and 2011. "Freddie has been a great teacher and an even better friend and mentor. I'm finally comfortable with the pro style of fighting."
Said Roach, "Shiming has come a long way in a very short time," Roach said. "I have seen quite a few amateurs take up to four years to learn the pro style. Shiming has done it in 15 months. He is getting the pro style of fighting down a lot quicker than previous Olympians I've worked with. The big difference is now he knows he must increase his lead as opposed to protecting a lead, which is what he was taught as an amateur."
De La Rosa will be fighting outside of Colombia for only the second time. The first time came in September when he traveled to Mexico and got knocked out by Moises Fuentes in the first round of a vacant interim junior flyweight title bout. He rebounded for a second-round knockout victory in November.
"De La Rosa is the best opponent Shiming has faced as a professional," Roach said. "I am confident that Shiming is ready and prepared to go 10 rounds.
"The key for Shiming is to hurt De La Rosa early and set a fast pace for the fight after that. Shiming's power has really developed. He has discovered power he never knew he had. His jab sets up an overhand right that is killer. He is sitting down on his punches. His combinations are outstanding. When he lands his power punches with 112 pounds behind them, Shiming will make his point to De La Rosa that he belongs."
The HBO2 telecast will open with fast-rising super middleweight Gilberto Ramirez (28-0, 22 KOs), 23, a southpaw from Mexico, taking on Junior Talipeau (20-2-1, 7 KOs), 30, a New Zealand native fighting out of Australia, in a 10-rounder.
Junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux (13-0, 8 KOs), 33, a Cuban defector living in Miami, is also on the undercard. He will defend his title for the fifth time when he faces fellow southpaw Sod Kokietgym (63-2-1, 28 KOs), 36, of Thailand.
Rigondeaux, who, like Zou, is also a two-time Olympic gold medallist, will have his bout televised on Spanish-language network UniMas' "Solo Boxeo" on same-day tape delay beginning at 11 p.m. ET/PT.
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