Dennis Ho/Associated Press
Although he is more than two feet shorter than the basketball superstar, Top Rank would like to make Zou Shiming the boxing version of Yao Ming. China has a billion-plus people and a potential middle class larger than the entire population of North America.
The resort city of Macau is already becoming a kind of East Asian version of Vegas or Monte Carlo. If the Olympic gold medalist Shiming can become a legitimate star in the professional ranks, there is going to be a lot of money to be made promoting cards in China.
Shiming has boxing talent and has been developed intelligently by Top Rank. While he's been moving up more quickly than most prospects, there has been prudence on display in choosing his opponents.
For his first 10-rounder, Shiming is being matched up with veteran Luis De La Rosa, who has fought twice for WBO interim world titles at strawweight and flyweight. De La Rosa is a step up in competition for Shiming, but he shouldn't be an especially dangerous one. He's the smaller man and has been clobbered when fighting at a high level.
De La Rosa won his last fight by Round 2 KO over 0-20 Deivis Narvaez. Prior to that he was TKO'd in Round 1 by Moises Fuentes when they met for the interim WBO 108-pound belt.
Before getting stopped by Fuentes, De La Rosa won an eight-round decision over 13-46-6 Alfonso De La Hoz. The fight before that, Merlito Sabillo beat him by Round 8 TKO for the WBO interim 105-pound belt.
So if Shiming is to meet Top Rank's hope and dreams, De La Rosa is the sort of guy he should be able to beat with relative ease. A smaller man with a history of getting stopped, De La Rosa could even provide Shiming the chance to add a rare knockout to his highlight reel.