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Where EAST meets the Northwest

USA DEBUT. Zou Shiming of China, right, fights Jozsef Ajtai of Hungary during the ninth round of a World Boxing Organization flyweight title match at Madison Square Garden in New York. Zou won the fight in a 10-round unanimous decision. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

From The Asian Reporter, V26, #12 (June 20, 2016), pages 7 & 16.

Sparse Chinese presence in crowd at Zouís U.S. debut

By Samantha Pell

The Associated Press

NEW YORK ó Bob Arum was right.

The CEO of Top Rank and Chinese icon Zou Shimingís promoter predicted a sparse Chinese fan turnout at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. And for the first time in Zouís professional career, the stands he fought in front of werenít filled to the brim with new, yet energetic Chinese boxing fans.

Instead, in a packed house, the majority of the electric crowd was filled with flag-waving Puerto Rican fans supporting Felix Verdejo and Roman "Rockyí Martinez, who co-headlined the championship doubleheader on the eve of the Puerto Rico Day parade.

Fighting at the theater provided Zouís smallest capacity venue to date. But despite the small Chinese turnout, a handful of Chinese flags waved in the stands and chants for Zou got louder and louder after each round.

"The crowd yelled loudly and made me feel like it was a home match and not away," Zou said.

Giving the millions of Chinese boxing fans watching at home something to cheer about, Zou (8-1, 2 KOs) easily beat 19-year-old Jozsef Ajtai (15-3, 10 KOs) of Hungary in a 10-round unanimous decision.

All the scores for Zou read 100-89.

"My competitorís objective was to stand to the last minute of the fight," Zou said. "He was afraid of the competition."

Sheng Li, CEO of Sports Entertainment Content Activation (SECA) in Shanghai, said prior to the fight he didnít know how big Zouís fan turnout would be, but predicted approximately 100.

"It will be different with this crowd, but this is what he wants," Sheng said. "At Madison Square Garden, every boxer wants to fight here. He (Zou) has fought in China eight times and now he wants to fight outside of China."

Fighting seven times in Macau at Cotai Arena, Zou sold out the 12,000- to 15,000-seat venue, and in Shanghai he did the same in his most recent fight on January 31 in an arena that can accommodate about 10,000 fans, according to Sheng.

Zouís win will boost his stardom in China even more, according to Ye Chen, part of Shenzhen Media Group in China that broadcasted the fight back to Zouís homeland.

Ye said Chinese boxing fans desperately want Zou to win a world title, and with the victory, Zou will be one step closer.

Ye was one of a handful of Chinese media that made the flight from China to attend Zouís bout. The Oriental Morning Post sent a print reporter, LeTV in China sent a camera crew, as did CCTV-5.

About 600,000 people watched the fight on LeTV through mobile, desktop, and television.

The Chinese media predicted a large viewing audience, mostly on mobile devices due to Zouís fight taking place when it was a Sunday morning in China, and Chinese people were working Sunday morning because of a Chinese holiday break on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

"Despite the time, Zou has the most audience for fighters in China," said WeiWei Wu, a member of LeTV. "He is No. 1 for almost all the fans and the last time he fought the audience was over 10,000 at the venue."

Zouís stardom was showcased on season 3 of "Dad, Where Are We Going?" in China. The season aired from July to October 2015.

"The reality show is him taking his son fishing and various activities, and itís the highest-rated reality TV show in China," Arum said.

Zou and his wife, Ying Ying Ren, a presenter on China television, make up one of Chinaís most popular couples. Zou also made a cameo in the Hollywood blockbuster Transformer 4: Age of Extinction.

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