HK Profile: Rex Tso
Proving that it’s not always about just hitting hard, Hong Kong’s own Rocky, Rex ‘The Wonder Kid’ Tso, is living proof of how blood, sweat and tears are also needed to get to the top. Or get on your way to the top, at least. Hong Kong’s first and foremost professional boxer is ending 2013 in style, after maintaining his undefeated record in the ring. He made it 11 professional wins in a row – seven of them knockouts – at Macau’s Clash in Cotai at the end of November against Thai boxer Susu Sithjadeang, on the same card as the world boxing bout of the year, Manny Pacquaio vs Brandon Rios. Tso’s fight saw him outclass and knock out his opponent in just two minutes – a result that shocked some pundits, including the 26-year-old himself. “I’m glad I got a KO win over Susu,” says Tso. “He’s a veteran Muay Thai fighter and is very tough, and he could have ended the fight with just one punch.”
Boxing wasn’t always on the cards for Tso. The Hong Kong native, hailing from Tuen Mun, first approached the sport aged 16, following in both his dad and brother’s footsteps. “I had no goal,” he recalls. “I really didn’t know what I could do. I wasn’t a good student. I didn’t have an expertise. Then I found out boxing was my expertise.” However, the road to his ‘expertise’ wasn’t always smooth, admits Tso. “I used to be so lazy and I didn’t have any strength when I competed. My old nickname was Broken Tyre, since I was always out of air. When I became professional, I actually had to train a lot.”
Tso says his training over the past few years has been no piece of cake. Before joining DEF boxing – a Sheung Wan gym which is a breeding ground for the city’s top amateur boxers – Tso trained with his father, an experience he admits he didn’t relish. “First of all, sons will always want to rebel,” he says. “You never listen to your father. He was soft on me, as well. As a father, you don’t want your son to overwork himself. But as an athlete, you really need to go that extra mile. You just can’t rest.”
On top of not pushing him far enough, Tso’s parents were also worried about their son’s choice to become a professional athlete. “Obviously, they were worried about how I could make a living out of boxing,” he says. “They preferred that I spent my time studying or working for the government. Boxing isn’t as stable. But that’s every Hong Kong family! They didn’t support it.” Understanding his parents’ concerns, Tso had some doubts too, before he finally decided to listen to his heart and pursue his dream.
A tougher coach was needed to turn the southpaw from an amateur fighter into a professional boxing machine, though. So, the disadvantages Tso experienced under his father’s tutelage were KO’d when he began training under Jay Lau, owner and head coach at DEF boxing. “I surprised everyone with my strength and nobody knew why I had such great stamina,” says Tso. “Nobody thought that I could be this good. The change was so surprising that they started calling me the Wonder Kid. Jay came up with the nickname.”
The Wonder Kid spent a few days in Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao’s camp in October in General Santos City in the Philippines. “The training regimen for a top world-class boxer like Manny is truly spectacular and inspiring, and I know what I’ll have to do if or when I make it to his level,” says Tso. “Freddie Roach [Manny’s coach] gave me some great pointers on how to generate more power from my legs, and did some fine-tuning of my technique too. It made a difference in the ring.”
As the year comes to a close, Tso’s undefeated streak has seen much attention put on the future of Hong Kong boxing – and the future of our city’s southpaw star. The WBC Asia super flyweight title winner looks like he may sign with one of the world’s biggest boxing promoters, Top Rank, in the New Year. That’s a huge deal. But Tso keeps a level head, focusing on the next fight rather than the fame and success he’s been enjoying. “I can’t think about [staying unbeaten],” he says. “I can only work hard and give it my best in the ring, and I’ll take on whatever challenges are put in front of me,” he says stoically. “I’m in my physical prime, I’ve got a good chin and I’m getting stronger without sacrificing speed.” With this attitude and his determination, we’re sure the Wonder Kid has a great 2014 ahead of him. We think he’s a knockout, anyway. Kerrie Hui
Find out more about Rex Tso at def.com.hk.