By Mark G. Butcher in Macao: One might feel they had stumbled upon a Rosetta Stone convention given the number of foreign tongues at the ‘Ring of Gold’ final press conference at the Venetian Theatre in Macao. Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Tagalog and English were all spoken on the dais before an enthusiastic South-East Asian media. Yet the common language was fighting.
This is the fourth promotion to be staged by Bob Arum and Top Rank in the luxurious surroundings of the Venetian Resort in Macao. The first three events attracted quite staggering official viewing figures - with 920 million people across mainland China having watched national hero Zou Shiming’s preliminary bouts. Factor in the US, Mexican and worldwide markets via HBO and that amounts to ONE BILLION viewers in 2013. Truly mind-blowing figures.
The appetite for boxing here is unquestionable. The long-awaited Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley rematch will be beamed back to Macao via live feed to ballrooms across the Venetian and Saturday’s show is the first of six to take place in Macao and another new market Singapore.
The final ‘Ring of Gold’ press conference featured a global array of boxing talent. It was also a great day to be in the interpreter business. Media heads swiveled in unison to find the interpreter of the moment translating a boxer’s language into more familiar words.
Yet one grey-haired member of the Japanese media seemed more intent on zooming in for improper close-ups of the ring card girls’ anatomy. Expect those pictures on a niche interest website soon.
IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez, mandatory challenger Denis Shafikov, Olympic gold medalists Zou Shiming, Ryota Murata, Egor Mekhontsev, Hong Kong’s popular Rex Tso and former world champions turned opponents Akifumi Shimoda and Marvin Sonsona took the dais alongside promoter Bob Arum and celebrated trainer Freddie Roach in a cordial atmosphere. Selected fighter quotes (and pleasantries!) appear below.
Zou Shiming, flyweight contender, 3-0 (0):
“For me to stand here and be promoted by Top Rank is a result of generations of boxing people in China and their hard work. Now I’ve been here a few times I am getting more and more experienced with the media, with the excitement and the fights. I have gone through a very effective training camp and, although this is the first eight-rounder for me, I think it’s a stepping stone to my future 10 and 12-rounders. I have worked very hard at the last training camp and it‘s made me stronger and more competent. My team and I will show you a very exciting match on Saturday and we’re confident we’ll bring home the victory.”
Freddie Roach, Trainer, Zou Shiming:
“Shiming is really coming a long way. I think he’s improved quite a bit. In the last three fights he has got better and better. This fight I expect him to be at his best. He’s had a really great training camp, he’s had great sparring. The last two days we even boxed Denis (Shafikov) in a couple of days of sparring that worked out well. Shiming, I think, will be world champion in the near future.”
Miguel Vazquez, IBF lightweight champion, Mexico, 33-3 (13):
“We are ready to defend our title here with a very hard opponent in Denis Shafikov. But I am here to win and take the title back home. I would like to dedicate this fight to my child, my team, my friends and above all to god who has made it possible for me to be here.”
Denis Shafikov, IBF lightweight title challenger, Russia, 33-0-1 (17):
“This is going to be a wonderful event. I am confident that this Saturday I will show a great fight for everyone around the world.”
Egor Mekhontsev, light-heavyweight prospect, Russia, 1-0 (1):
“I want to thank Freddie Roach for providing the place for my training camp. He did a great job over there. I am ready to fight. It is great to be here. I like the Asian audience. You guys are wonderful. I will do my best on Saturday and I know it’s going to be a great show and you guys will enjoy it.”
Ryoto Murata, middleweight prospect, Japan, 2-0 (2):
“I hope to put on a great performance in such a wonderful city as Macao and I hope everyone will root for me as well.”
Rex Tso, super-flyweight contender, Hong Kong, 8-0-0-2 (5):
“Thanks to all my Hong Kong fans for coming all the way over here to support me. My opponent from Japan, Mako, knew about this fight three months ago and he’s trained very hard to prepare, but so have I. And I’m going to do my best to put on a great show.”
Afikumi Shimoda, former WBA super-bantamweight champion and featherweight contender, Japan, 28-3-2 (12):
“I look forward to putting on a great performance and giving my best on Saturday night in this great arena here.”
Check back tomorrow for an interview with reigning IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez.
*The HBO telecast of ‘Ring of Gold’ starts 5pm ET/PT on HBO2 in the US.