Zou not giving up on world title dream

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Chinese boxer Zou Shiming holds his two sons, four-year-old Zou Mingxuan (right) and two-year-old Zou Minghao, after beating Brazilian challenger Natan Santana Coutinho for the WBO International flyweight belt in Shanghai on Saturday. Zou's wife Ran Yingying is on the left.

Taking a break from the ring has mellowed Zou Shiming and changed his outlook of life.

"Boxing is not everything for me," China's best-known boxer declared after knocking out Brazilian challenger and South American champion Natan Santana Coutinho to clinch the WBO International flyweight title in Shanghai on Saturday.

"Even if I lost tonight, I still have my family," a composed Zou said after the bout and in the presence of his wife and two young sons. "I felt more support (in their presence). I knew that I was not fighting alone.

"I have been in boxing for 21 years. It is important to enjoy the sport and be a model and a leader to fellow boxers in my country. As long as I can contribute to the development of China's professional boxing, I'm happy."

That took the assembled media by surprise. Was he losing interest in the sport and giving up on his dream of a world title?

Apparently not.

Chasing the elusive world title was very much in the plans and his promoter Bob Arum confirmed as much immediately after the fight.

"His performance was outstanding," said Arum, president of Top Rank. "I want to test him again in spring. By the end of the year, he will have a fight for the world championship."

Returning to the ring after 10 months, Zou, welcomed as "The Return of The King," appeared a bit rusty and hesitant at the start, with Coutinho even throwing in a bit of Samba and hoping to provoke his opponent. But that only seemed to spur Zou further.

In the eight of the 10-round bout, Zou unleashed couple of strong flurries that had Coutinho on the ropes and forcing the referee to intervene with 43 seconds still left on the clock.

Zou with 7 wins, 1 loss and 2 KOs, emerged winner in what was his first fight on mainland China exactly four years after he turned professional. All his previous bouts were in Macau.

"I was actually a bit nervous before the fight, but as soon as I stepped into the ring, I managed to concentrate immediately," said the 34-year-old Guizhou Province native.

"My opponent is young and new, adding to the uncertainty of the fight. Therefore, I treated every round as the first round, and grabbed my chance in the eighth when I felt that he had reached his limit."

Until then, the 21-year-old Coutinho had an impressive 12-0-0, 10 KOs record.

"It was just like another Olympic for me, thinking that my opponent is from Brazil, the host country of the 2016 Games," the two-time Olympic gold medalist said. "Olympics was a good memory for me. Four years ago, I would not have imagined myself to be still in the ring."

Zou lost to Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng in March and missed out on the world title. He took a long break from the sport and only returned to training four weeks before Saturday's fight.

Zou has said that he plans to set up a boxing club in Shanghai. "I will never leave the sport and will stay on as a coach or a boxing promoter," he said.

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