Zou defers plans to begin pro career

BEIJING -- Zou Shiming, China's Olympic light flyweight gold medalist, will retain his amateur status and box at the 2012 Games in London, a state newspaper reported Wednesday.

Zou said he decided to defer plans to leave the national team following appeals from Chinese sports officials. But he said he still plans on having a professional career someday, the China Daily reported.

London would mark the third Olympics for Zou, whose bronze at Athens was the first Games podium finish for China in a sport long banned by the communist regime.

The two-time world amateur champion started out in traditional Chinese martial arts before switching to boxing at age 16.

Zou's decision to remain an amateur highlights the influence of China's government-controlled sporting establishment. State sports federations operate academies and tightly control not only the training and competition schedules of its athletes, but also their commercial endorsements and some aspects of their private lives.

Zou said he was unable to say no when officials asked him to turn down offers to go professional. But he indicated that the decision did not come without regrets.

"It would take another four years. It will be more difficult when I grow older, for the Olympics and for the pro competition," Zou said.