Whilst mainland China still yearns for a fighter to generate real excitement and show the necessary ingredients to carry the sport on their back Hong Kong has no such issues as the momentum around Rex Tso continues to gather pace both in and out the ring. The super flyweight known as “The Wonder Kid” took a hard-fought 7th round technical decision this past Saturday over forma world champion Kohei Kono to move his record to 22-0 13 KOs. As expected the pair delivered a war of attrition but unfortunately a grotesque swelling and a shut left eye suffered by Tso brought a halt to proceedings at the start of the 7th with Tso in front on all 3 cards by scores of 68-66.
Tso came from a boxing family with his dad and 3 brothers all competing as amateurs but the 30-year-old showed no appetite for the sport. Despite possessing plenty of talent a poor work ethic and general laziness suggested that his career would come to nothing however, linking up with Jay Lau seem to be a turning point. Lau, who was intent on building professional boxing in Hong Kong asked Tso to be his linchpin in the area and in conjunction with Top Rank Lau’s DEF Promotions still promotes Tso to this day.
Tso turned pro in September 2011 and his first few bouts were spread across Asia including Singapore, the Philippines and mainland China as well as at home. He was then able to take full advantage of Top Ranks foray in to Asia and ended up appearing on 8 of the cards that were staged in Macao. In this period he took on the likes of Rusalee Samor, Mako Matsuyama, Espinos Sabu, John Bajawa and Michael Enriquez. By now Tso had proved himself to be an exciting fan friendly fighter with a big heart but how far he could go was debatable.
With a government clampdown and a downturn in the Macao economy which resulted in Top Rank ceasing their operations in the area it was time to turn the attention back home for Tso and his handlers.
A 7th round knockout of Brad Hore then followed in August 2015 before he faced forma world title challenger Young Gil Bae in May 2016. The Korean proved to be no match for Tso who stopped him in 4 rounds. 5 months later he faced the undefeated Ryuto Maekawa who is a stablemate of the formidable WBC flyweight champion Daigo Higa. The 2 engaged in a bruising encounter with Tso prevailing after 10 rounds via unanimous decision. By now he was generating a real buzz in Hong Kong and pulling in a sizable crowd at the Convention and Exhibition Center. Canny operator Hirofumi Mukai was up next 5 months later and although the experienced Japanese fighter brought plenty of tricks to the table he was overwhelmed and stopped in 8 rounds.
Tso will never be a defensive wizard but sparring with the likes of Rey Megrino, Marlon Tapales, Takuya Watanabe and Randy Petalcorin has certainly sharpened his skills and elevated him on to another level. His ability to sell out the Convention and Exhibition Center and pull in a huge online audience make him a genuine attraction which of course gives his team more cards to play with when trying to entice quality opposition to Hong Kong.
Going forward a rematch with Kono would seem the most logical move given the early ending and the fabulous entertainment that the contest provided. With the depth and quality at 115 lb there is absolutely no guarantee of Tso claiming a world title but the Hong Kong superstar is a wonderful example of boxing’s continuing globalisation and however his career progresses it’s sure to be a memorable one with plenty of thrills and spills.
(Image courtesy of DEF HK Promotions)