If there's one thing we can learn from Hong Kong's top professional boxer Rex Tso
it's that looks can be deceiving. Weighing in at a mere 115 lbs, the 28-year-old "Wonder Kid" bagged the WBC ABCO Super Flyweight title, the WBO Asia-Pacific Junior Bantamweight title, the WBA International Super Flyweight title, and the WBC Asia Super Flyweight title. But will he defeat Korean multi-title champion Young Gil Bae at Clash of Champions and be one step closer to winning the WBA Super Flyweight World Champion title? We catch up with him ahead of the big fight.
Clash of the Champions is said to be "the biggest professional boxing event in Hong Kong to date", how does that make you feel?
I’m always happy to fight in my hometown. I’ve fought in front of even bigger audiences, with more than 15,000 in Macau, but it’s a very special feeling to fight at home! I’m especially proud of my role in establishing the sport of pro boxing here, and hope more and more fans follow the sport and even take it up, whether for competition or fitness!
How does it feel to represent Hong Kong?
I feel very proud. I hope to inspire young people who, like me, struggle(d) academically. There are more paths to success than doing well in school, going to university, and getting a job in an office. What I do also requires a lot of hard work and dedication, and can also result in success. I’m proud to be a role model, especially for young people who may otherwise have little hope, and I hope I can help their parents see other possibilities for them rather than just yell at them and blame them for not doing well at school.
How are you preparing to fight Young Gil Bae?
I train all year round, and I spend roughly half of each year training in the Philippines. For my fight against Bae, I have trained at the Wakee Salud Gym in Cebu, the Philippines, where there are some very tough sparring partners.
And what does your daily routine of training involve?
I train six days a week, and take Saturday off. I go on a 10km jog in the early morning after a very light breakfast, jogging from home to DEF Boxing, my gym in Sheung Wan. Then I do strength and conditioning training in my second training session – it’s very, very tough! After going home for lunch and having a quick nap, I’m back at the gym in the afternoon for boxing training, including three sparring sessions per week in the weeks leading up to each fight. The gym is my office, and I put in the time like all those white-collar workers out there!
Wow! That sounds pretty gruelling, where do you find your motivation?
I find it in a lot of different things. Firstly, I know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to do this, so I want to make the very best of it. Secondly, this is my job and my life, so I take it very seriously. Thirdly, for survival – I do this for a living, and if I want to do well and hopefully buy a house someday, I have to work very hard. And last but not least, I’m motivated by all of the people who watch me fight and look up to me.
What is going through your head when you are fighting in the ring?
A lot of people ask me this. People say I look pretty angry before each fight. Actually, I’m just trying to focus, trying to block out all distractions, and getting ready to fight. I have to be both focused and relaxed, so I have to block everything out and not let anything bother or affect me.
What's your favourite move in the ring?
Don’t tell my next opponent, but after I go in to attack, I’m very good at pivoting to the right to get out of the way of his counterattacks! It’s been quite effective, and I hope to put it to good use in the (near) future!
What do you do after a fight?
I normally take at least one to two weeks off from training. If I’m unlucky, I may sustain some sort of injury (I’ve suffered cuts that threaten to open up again in future fights, severely bruised knuckles, a bruised eye…) and cannot train for a month or more. I don’t mind bringing my wife out for a brief vacation. Most important of all, I get to eat!
So you've suffered quite a few injuries, do you have any scars?
A few, all from my fights and from training. The middle knuckle of my left hand is a lot bigger than all the others. I’ve banged up my nose a few times. One of my ears looks like it was torn halfway off and sewn back on again. I’ve been cut up countless times in the ring, but most of the time, they heal quite well.
What's the toughest fight you ever had?
In my 13th professional fight, in May 2014 at The Venetian Macao, I fought a very tough and experienced Thai opponent named Ratchasak Kokietgym. Before that fight, I had never been knocked down before in my pro career. But in round 3, I got knocked down - TWICE! After the first knockdown, I tried so hard to fight back that I got careless and got knocked down again! Fortunately, I collected myself and stopped thinking about winning or losing and just decided to put my training into action, and managed to make a comeback and win that fight. That was a tough fight, but I won many fans with my effort. And honestly, it was less about winning and losing and more about doing my best, win or lose. That's my life motto in fact - do your best, and things will work themselves out.
So who is your favourite professional boxer?
Manny Pacquiao, both for his outstanding abilities in the ring and the way he inspires and rallies his entire country outside of the ring. And to bring himself out of poverty and later share his wealth with the very poor is very inspiring. I’m very honoured to have met my idol in Macau several times – I fought on the undercard of two events headlined by Manny – and to have visited him at his house and gym in the Philippines too!
What do you like to do for fun in Hong Kong when you're not training or fighting?
Hmm … I have a very simple life, and after all that work, all that focus, I just want to relax - and EAT! After controlling and cutting weight for my fights – I normally weigh 130 lbs and have to cut down to 115 lbs for my fights – I’m very happy to be able to eat after each fight!
Good luck Rex, we're rooting for you!
Catch the Wonder Kid in the ring at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 14 at 7pm. Tickets range from $380 to $2,880, and are available at HK Ticketing
Check out our past interview
with Rex, and spend Five Minutes With
some other colourful characters who are shaking up Hong Kong.
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