SHANGHAI: Japan’s unheralded Sho Kimura stunned Chinese star Zou Shiming with an 11th-round knockout that saw the part-time restaurant worker snatch the WBO world flyweight title in Shanghai on Friday.
Zou burst into tears afterwards and at 36 the shock defeat could spell the end of a brilliant career which also included two Olympic gold medals and three amateur world titles before he turned pro.
Zou, making his first defense of the World Boxing Organization (WBO) crown he won last year in Las Vegas, appeared well on his way to victory, using his experience to repeatedly make Kimura miss while peppering the challenger with counter-punches.
It looked grim for Kimura by the sixth round when Zou’s slashing left hook tore a gash next to the Japanese fighter’s right eye, forcing a temporary stoppage as the ring doctor examined the bloody cut.
Cheered on by an ecstatic home crowd, Zou continued to batter Kimura, 28, who works part-time delivering beer for a restaurant and was quoted this week devoting the fight to his late mother.
At times it seemed the main threat to Zou was the canvas itself, as he went down three times in the same wet corner, with each ruled a slip.
But the older man appeared to run out of juice as the scheduled 12-round bout wore on and Kimura (now 15-1-2) kept piling forward.
He sent Zou crumpling to the floor in the 11th round after unleashing a barrage of punches.
The shocking upset was a bitter letdown for local fans and Zou, who was promoting the fight himself and chose his homeland for his first title defence as part of his aim to raise boxing’s profile in China.
Afterwards he just about kept his emotions in check long enough to call on Chinese sports fans to support boxing and declared some success in boosting its popularity in a country where football, basketball and other sports enjoy far greater followings.
“Because of Zou Shiming, you are standing here today,” he said.
Zou, who only turned professional in 2013 after his long and hugely successful amateur career, drops to 9-2 as a pro.