Macau (Macau) (AFP) - Double Olympic champion Zou Shiming's failure to win the IBF flyweight world title on Saturday does not mean China's dream of having a professional world champion is over, says veteran promoter Bob Arum.
The 83-year-old Top Rank chief, already eyeing a comeback fight for Zou, turned his attention to the next in line for a shot at glory - Hong Kong's "Wonder Kid" Rex Tso.
Tso, 27, fighting on the Amnat Ruenroeng-Zou undercard, prevailed on points in a brutal 10-round super flyweight eliminator against Michael Enriquez of the Philippines.
Arum announced after the fight that Tso would challenge Kohei Kono, Japan's WBA super flyweight champion, at the same Cotai Arena in Macau on July 18, and become the first ever boxer from Hong Kong to fight for a world title.
"Rex Tso put on a wonderful display," said Arum. "He better get used to all the attention because a lot more is coming."
"Next step: win a world title," Tso told reporters. "After that, help to popularise boxing in Hong Kong and China.
"When people think of Hong Kong, I don't want them to just think of Bruce Lee. I want them to think of Rex Tso."
Arum said that they would look for an opponent for Zou's comeback fight on the same card.
"(Zou) Shiming knows like all of us that all great fighters suffer a loss," said Arum of the fighter he described last year as the "poster boy" for the rise of professional boxing in China.
Zou was fast-tracked by Arum, his Top Rank organisation, and Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach to a world title shot in just his seventh pro fight.
But the man from Guizhou's inexperience showed on Saturday as he was outmanoeuvred, outboxed and outfoxed by the IBF world champion Amnat.
- 'Game plan sucked' -
"It is part of life," Zou, 33, told reporters afterwards. "Without losing you cannot fully enjoy the sweet taste of victory.
"This is the beginning of a new journey," added Zou, who said he will take a couple of weeks off with his family before "getting back on it".
Roach, in the middle of training Manny Pacquiao to fight Floyd Mayweather in their May 2 megafight, said the slippery Thai had surprised him.
"He was running a lot, very defensive. He was a very awkward guy to fight. I didn't see any of that on the tapes we watched," Roach told AFP. "My game plan sucked."
Roach was also in the corner when another Chinese fighter, the eccentric light welterweight Yank Ik, put himself in line for a world title shot.
The 29-year-old Yang constantly switched stance, showboated and ultimately battered the experienced Patomsuk Pathompothong (31-2-2) of Thailand into submission, stopping his 31-year-old opponent midway through the sixth round of their final eliminator.
"We're gonna look for a first world title opportunity for Ik Yang," said Arum.
Meanwhile Roach was singing the praises of Tso, maybe looking to add to the 34 world champions he has trained in his legendary career.
"I'd love to work with him. I think the kid's got real potential," Roach told AFP. "He's a good young fighter. It was fun to watch. I enjoyed that fight. They both dug down really deep."
Zou failed to start his Shiming dynasty on Saturday, but with the likes of Yang and Tso waiting in the wings, the Chinese show will go on.