Top Rank, which promoted three boxing events in Macau, China, in 2013, including last month's Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios fight, is returning to the Asian gambling capital for another card at the CotaiArena at the Venetian Macao on Feb. 22.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum is calling the card "Ring of Gold" because, besides a pair of world title bouts, he said three of the four 2012 Olympic gold-medal winners he signed will appear on the show, which will be televised on HBO2 in the United States.
The card will be headlined by flyweight Zou Shiming (3-0, 0 KOs), the Freddie Roach-trained Chinese national hero and three-time Olympic medalist (gold in 2012 and 2008 and bronze in 2004), who will take on an opponent to be determined as he moves into his first scheduled eight-round fight. Zou, the driving force for having professional fight cards in Macau, has had all of his pro fights there.
Also appearing on the card against opponents to be determined will be two other London Olympic gold medalists: middleweight Ryota Murata (2-0, 2 KOs) of Japan, who will box in a scheduled eight-round bout, and cruiserweight Egor Mekhontsev (1-0, 1 KO), the light heavyweight gold medalist from Russia, in a six-rounder. Mekhontsev turned pro on Dec. 7 and scored a third-round knockout victory.
In one world title fight, lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez (33-3, 13 KOs), 26, of Mexico, will make his sixth defense, a mandatory, against southpaw Denis Shafikov (33-1, 18 KOs), 28, of Russia in match between a consummate technical boxer (Vazquez) and an all-out pressure fighter (Shafikov).
"Vazquez is very difficult to beat because he is such a good boxer, but if there's anyone who can beat him, it's a guy like Shafikov, who puts on non-stop pressure," Arum said.
In the other title bout, newly crowned featherweight titleholder Simpiwe Vetyeka of South Africa will make his first defense against former junior featherweight titleholder Akifumi Shimoda of Japan. Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com that the fight has been agreed to and that Top Rank was awaiting the signed contracts to be returned.
Arum said that Venetian executives wanted one of the title fights to include a Japanese contender as it is seeking to bring in some of Japan's wealthiest gamblers for the fight card.
Vetyeka (27-2, 15 KOs), 32, pulled a major upset on Dec. 6 in Perth, Australia, where he stopped Chris John (48-1-3, 22 KOs), the Indonesian icon, in the sixth round to hand him his first defeat and win the 126-pound belt. John had been the longest active titlist in boxing, having held his belt since 2004. He had made 18 successful title defenses. Had he retained the title against Vetyeka, the 19 successful defenses would have tied John with International Boxing Hall of Famer Eusebio Pedroza of Panama for most in featherweight history.
Shimoda (28-3-2, 12 KOs), a 29-year-old southpaw, won a junior featherweight world title in 2011 but lost it in his first defense later that year in Atlantic City, N.J. He was way ahead on all three scorecards against Rico Ramos when Ramos knocked him out in the seventh round. Shimoda moved up to featherweight after the loss and has gone 5-0-1 since.
"Vetyeka beat Chris John, which has increased his reputation and the exposure for him in this fight with Shimoda back to the United States can only help," Moretti said. "I think because the fight will be seen here, the winner of the fight will definitely come out of it with a bigger offer, be it a fight with Nonito Donaire or (titleholder Evgeny) Gradovich, or maybe (junior featherweight champion Guillermo) Rigondeaux moves up in weight to fight the winner. There is definitely a bigger payday and opportunity for the winner of that fight."