By Mark G. Butcher in Macao: Something special is happening in Macao. The casino floors of the Venetian Resort are already heaving with South-East Asia’s high and low rollers chasing dreams and distraction. The appetite for gambling is unrivalled here and, where there is a major casino, boxing is never too far away.
This Saturday’s ‘Ring of Gold’ card, promoter Bob Arum’s fourth show in Macao, will again centre on China’s double Olympic champion Zou Shiming as well as fellow London 2012 gold medalists Ryoto Murata and Egor Mekhontsev. The IBF lightweight title showdown between uncompromising Mexican Miguel Vazquez and the relentless Denis Shafikov promises to be the fight of the night.
“We expect to do six promotions in Macao and Singapore combined in 2014,” said Arum. “I will be going to Moscow early in March and we hope to do some significant promotions in Russia as well, particularly in Moscow.
“Nonito Donaire will be fighting in Macao next. We have him scheduled to fight this South African kid Simpiwe Vetyeka (WBA featherweight champion) who beat Chris John. We hope to have that at the Venetian in May.
“But the Venetian is looking beyond the gaming. They want to make Macao a destination, that there will be a lot of things for people to see and do outside gaming. Caesars Palace became Caesars Palace because of its association with boxing and major boxing events. The Venetian has the same opportunity and they’re using it.
“They’re selling to an audience of 1.4 billion people so you’ll never have enough tickets,” added a bullish Arum, who is expanding his boxing horizons outside the US by signing the hottest amateurs in world boxing.
Zou, Japan’s Murata and Russia’s Mekhontsev have been joined at Top Rank by Brazilian Equiva Falcao (Olympic silver), Ukrainian Alexander Gvozdyk (Olympic bronze), American Jose Ramirez, Puerto Rican Felix Verdejo and Mexican Oscar Valdez, not to mention the prodigiously talented Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko who will challenge Orlando Salido for the WBO featherweight title in only his second pro fight on March 1st. Arum has been taken with the professionalism and demeanour of his United Nations of fighters.
“They are great young men. Every one that has come in I’m blown away by their personality and how dedicated there are. From this crop, I think we’ll get some of the top fighters of the next 10 years. They just appear to have it all and they’re such pleasant, nice kids who seem intelligent and dedicated.”
Heavy-handed middleweight prospect Murata, 2-0 (2), edged out his promotional rival Falcao by one point at the last Olympics and Arum already has his eyes on a professional rematch with a twist.
“Murata will fight in Japan after this fight and hopefully in Singapore for the next one. I think he’ll be a big success in the US, too, but I am looking forward to 2016 because the city with the second biggest Japanese population in the world is Sao Paulo, Brazil. I would love to do a Murata and Falcao rematch in Sao Paolo to coincide with the 2016 Olympics in Brazil for all the Japanese residents and Brazilian citizens.”
The globalisation of boxing and entertainment is almost upon us.
*The HBO telecast of ‘Ring of Gold’ starts 5pm ET/PT on HBO2 in the US.