Roach says China's Zou must dump amateur ideas

Rebecca Bryan

Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach says China's Zou Shiming must forget everything he thinks he knows about Amnat Ruenroeng if he wants to seize the Thai's flyweight world title next month.

Zou, a two-time Olympic champion and three-time world champion in an illustrious amateur career, will be challenging for a professional world title in just his seventh pro bout on March 7, when he takes on International Boxing Federation champ Amnat in Macau.

The two met three times as amateurs, Amnat winning their first contest and Zou triumphing in the next two -- the last a 5-2 decision over Amnat in the 2010 Asian Games semi-finals.

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Roach said those wins will mean nothing come March.

"My biggest thing is I don't want him to go into the fight thinking 'I know how to beat this guy,' because three rounds and 12 rounds are just worlds apart," Roach said Tuesday at his Wild Card gym in Hollywood, where Zou is preparing for his title shot.

Zou took his professional record to 6-0 with one knockout in his last fight, going 12 rounds for the first time in a convincing win over Thailand's Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym on November 23 in Macau.

The bout, in which Zou knocked down Kwanpichit three times and survived a nasty cut over his left eye, was on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao's demolition of Chris Algieri.

Both Zou and Roach acknowledged that Amnat, unbeaten as a professional with a record of 14-0 with five knockouts, will be a more formidable opponent as he makes the third defense of the title he claimed with a unanimous-decision victory over Filipino Rocky Fuentes in January of 2014.

Since then, the Thai has held onto the belt with split decision victories over Kazuto Ioka and McWilliams Arroyo.

"(Amnat) has had a little more experience since they both turned pro," Roach said. "But he has some mistakes that I think Shiming can take advantage of.

"But they're not the same mistakes he made in the amateurs," Roach was quick to add. "And the approach to how to counter those mistakes is different also. We really have to see if Shiming understands what I've tried to teach him."

When he first began working with Zou, Roach recalled, he was so impressed with his rapid progress that he thought the Chinese boxer would be fighting for a world title in no time.

"I was really excited," Roach recalled. "He was boxing great fighters like Brian Viloria and he was getting the best of Brian, really dominating. But then we got to the fight ... all the amateur stuff that he did that I tried to take away, it all came back. Not just half -- it all came back.

"So I said it's going to take a bit longer than I thought."

- 'Real professional' -

Promoter Bob Arum believes Roach's teaching has stuck now, and that Zou is a legitimate title contender.

"Freddie has really done a great job turning him from an amateur star to a professional," Arum said. "We think he fights like a real professional. We're very enthusiastic."

And Arum isn't worried that the 33-year-old from Guizhou could be distracted by his growing celebrity, including a cameo appearance in the latest "Transformers" movie and a gig advertising Beats headphones with NBA star LeBron James and tennis great Serena Williams.

After all, Arum noted, two Olympic gold medals had already made Zou a star in China.

"I think he was used to the adulation and the attention over along period having won two medals -- that encompased four years. So he's used to fame and fortune," Arum said.

"He's a pretty down-to-earth kid."

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