MACAO - Chinese flyweight Zou Shiming vastly improved his chances of a world title shot when he registered the first stoppage win of his professional career against Thailand's Yokthong Kokietgym on Saturday.
The two-time Olympic champion controlled the bout at Macau's Venetian casino resort from early on and he dropped Yokthong three times before the referee halted it in the penultimate round, the seventh.
The 32-year-old meted out heavy punishment in the fifth and sixth rounds and he knocked down Yokthong, 19, with a powerful shot in the seventh and then twice more following an unanswered flurry.
The victory for Zou against the young but dangerous Thai improved his professional figures to 4-0 and will allay his critics following some unconvincing performances after making the leap from amateurism.
Zou is being lined up to challenge International Boxing Federation (IBF) world champion Amnat Ruenroeng of Thailand in Macau in November, a fight which would attract huge interest in China's largely untapped market.
Indicating his importance to promoters, Zou's non-title bout topped the bill ahead of Mexican Miguel Vazquez's successful IBF world lightweight defence against Russia's Denis Shafikov by unanimous points decision.
Also on the card, London Olympics middleweight gold-medallist Ryota Murata took just four rounds to stop Brazil's Carlos Nascimento and make it three wins out of three since turning pro.
And Russia's Olympic light heavyweight champion Egor Mekhontsev was an emphatic winner against previously undefeated Thai Atthaporn Jaritram, by technical knock-out in the second round.
Zou's late plunge into the pro ranks follows an amateur career in which he became China's first Olympic boxing medallist, first world amateur champion and first Olympic champion.
The exploits made him a household name in China, where boxing was banned under Mao Zedong, and where his fledgling professional career has been closely followed.
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