Hong Kong’s “Wonder Kid” Rex Tso Sing-yu will have to wait a bit longer to earn a world title fight. His latest opponent was announced on Sunday as the main event for “Clash of Champions 2”.
Japanese fighter Hirofumi Mukai will challenge Tso on March 11 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in a 12-round contest. Three belts will also be on the line: Tso’s WBC Asia super flyweight title and WBO (World Boxing Organisation) international junior bantamweight title, and Mukai’s WBO Asia-Pacific junior bantamweight title, but there’s no world title yet for the 29-year-old unbeaten fighter (20-0-0, 12 KOs).
Mukai (13-4-3, 3 KOs) is the new WBO Asia-Pacific champion. He will probably be tougher than Tso’s previous opponent, the previously unbeaten Ryuto Maekawa, who Tso battered in a one-sided, unanimous decision in October at the same venue.
The 31-year-old Mukai will be Tso’s tallest opponent to date, at 1.71m. Like Tso, he is also a southpaw – a fighter whose left hand is strongest.
The Tso camp believe Mukai will be a tough nut to crack and could give the Hong Kong star a good workout before he earns a possible world title shot later this year.
“Mukai has earned world title fights before. He’s an experienced fighter that could give Rex a few problems,” said Jay Lau Chi-yuen, Tso’s trainer and manager.
“He’s tall and he’s a southpaw just like Rex so it’s not going to be easy for Rex.”
Mukai met the press on Sunday and was convinced he was going to win the March showdown.
“I fight to win and I have a bit more experience than Rex. I’m going to fight hard and bring all three belts back to Japan,” he said.
In November 2016, Mukai defeated Thailand’s Tanawat Phonnaku (who went the distance against then-WBA champion Kohei Kono in Tokyo last year) to claim Tso’s vacated WBO Asia-Pacific junior bantamweight title.
Mukai then immediately called out Tso, laying down a challenge for the WBO international junior bantamweight title captured by Tso at “Battle of Victors” in October.
Osaka-based Mukai is no stranger to big title fights, having fought for the WBC world flyweight and super flyweight titles, as well as OPBF and Japanese national titles.
The Wonder Kid’s world title plans have been turned upside-down before. His plans to challenge Kono for the WBA world super flyweight title were thwarted after Kono lost his belt in a mandatory title defence against Luis Concepcion of Panama in August last year. Kono lost again last month, when the 36-year-old veteran was knocked out by his fellow Japanese Naoya “Monster” Inoue.
As Tso is ranked the number one contender by the WBO, he was subsequently ordered to accept the challenge by Mukai for the WBO international title.
Tso’s camp is determined that a world title fight will come sooner than later, especially after his new-found status as the WBO number one ranked contender.
The Hong Kong star recently had his contract with boxing promoters, Top Rank, extended for another year, and CEO and founder Bob Arum will work closely with the Tso camp to set up a world title fight for him in 2017 – especially if he remains unbeaten and retains his number one contender status.
Tso recently underwent two weeks of intensive training in the Philippines, where he sparred with WBO world bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales (29-2-0). The Hong Kong star might return to the Philippines to sharpen his skills or stay home and focus on his physical training and conditioning.