SHANGHAI (AFP) - Former WBO International Flyweight Champion Zou Shiming recaptured the title by defeating Brazilian Natan Santana Coutinho by TKO in the eighth round in front of a raucous Shanghai Oriental Sports Centre crowd.
A three-time Olympic medallist who won China's first ever boxing gold medal in 2008, Zou was fighting his first professional match in mainland China after his seven previous matches were held in Macau.
"The homecoming was great," he said. "I really fed off the energy of the crowd."
As the Shanghai crowd yelled out "Zou Shiming Jai Yo (Go Zhou Shiming)," throughout the fight, Coutinho was happy to play to the crowd.
He playfully gyrated at Zou twice in the first two rounds of the match as the two were evenly matched.
However, by the eighth round, Zou had established a couple of strong flurries. By the 2:34 minute mark of that round, he had cornered Coutinho landing a series of blows that caused the referee to call the match a TKO.
"I'm so happy with the fight," Coutinho said. "Zou is a great guy, although he did break my face. But I'm just 20 years old and Zou has mastered some things I'm still learning. But I'll be back and I want to thank the Chinese people for having me."
The fight marked Zou's return to the ring since losing an IBF Flyweight title match to Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng last March.
"I've taken 10 months off to rest, spend time with my family and even found a little reality TV fame, but my heart never left the ring," Zou said after the fight.
"Today I fought patiently and got into a rhythm. (Coutinho) is young and has a powerful right hand, but once I got into a rhythm I was able to control the fight."
Billed as The Return of the King, the second event in the Top Rank and SECA organised Chinese League of Fists professional boxing venture, attracted a sizable crowd in Shanghai.
"Zou's performance in this fight was outstanding," said Top Rank chief executive officer Bob Arum, who also promotes Manny Pacquiao.
"I really want to test Zou again with another top contender in the Spring. If he passes that, we will have him fight for a world championship by the end of the year."