DEF Promotions, the Hong Kong based outfit that helped make Rex Tso a star, streamed their latest show through their Facebook account and it was an interesting one with a real international flavour thanks to fighters from across Asia.
Although much of the card was low level action it was entertaining and gave us some fantastic action.
The first bout saw 17 year old debutant Zhiqiang Zhuo (1-0) take a 4 round decision win over Chuan Hsun Hong (2-1, 1), with Hone being dropped twice, en route to to the loss. Zhuo would take the decision 38-36 on all 3 cards.
The second bout saw revenge, as Tom Taw (5-1, 2) avenged his 2017 loss to Tsun Yin Jeremy Lee (1-1), with the 4 round decision, in a very entertaining bout. Lee was dropped in round 2, from a series of hooks, and although he saw out the distance it was clear he was second best. A third bout, a rubber bout, between the two, maybe over 6 rounds, could be very worth making.
The third bout saw talented 21 year old local Lennon Tsoi (5-1, 4) bounce back from his first loss to stop Thai visitor Wichet Sengprakhon (8-6, 3). Tsoi dropped his man who retired in the corner between rounds 4 and 5 to give Tsoi the win.
One man who couldn't bounce back from a recent loss was Japan's Shogo Yamamoto (4-4, 1), who suffered a second successive stoppage loss. The Japanese visitor was beaten, bruised, busted open and then dropped by Napalese born Hong Kong based Nibesh Ghale (5-1, 4), with Yamamoto's team stopping the bout during the count. Ghale, who has now reeled off 5 straight wins since losing to Kuok Kun Ng way back in 2013, looked really fun to watch, but he clearly needs to be kept in these lower level bouts for quite some time due to his technical deficiencies.
Filipino Renz Dacquel (2-1, 1) made things worse for the travelling Japanese contingent as she beat 19 year old Nanako Suzuki (3-2, 1) in an entertaining 4 round female bout. Suzuki, who had been one of the focal points of the promotion, came out swinging, but was dropped in the first round and seemed to be under a lot of pressure in the early going. Likely feeling a lot of expectation on her shoulders. In round 4 Suzuki managed to have her best success, hurting Dacquel, but she was unable to drop the Filipino, who earned the win with scores of 39-36. This is a big win for Dacquel but also an excellent learning experience for Suzuki who showed improvement through out the bout, and had it been a 6 rounder may well have dropped Dacquel and managed to pull out a result. A rematch of this, down the line, makes a lot of sense.
The quality then took a huge step up in class, as the talented young Lap Cheong Cheong (6-0, 4), from Macau, faced Indonesian Muhammad Wahid (4-2, 1). Cheong Cheong showed his class in the opening round, showing why he is regarded as a real boxing hope for Macau, but Wahid chose to play spoiler and began making things messy the following round. Round 3 again saw the Indonesian having some great moments but Cheong's skills were still on show and he finished the round with a determined body assault. In round 4 things stepped up massively with the two trading blows towards the end of the round, with Cheong looking like he was determined to see off his man.
The determination of Cheong to stop Wahid was again on show in round 5, as he cornered his man and went to work. By this point Cheong was becoming sloppy, as his work rate was taking a toll on his crispness, but he seemed really hungry to take the Indonesian out and continued pressing hard in round 6, testing Wahid's resolve to the final bell. It was as if Cheong wouldn't accept the win without it coming by stoppage, despite clearly being up on the scorecards. Impressively Wahid survived the 6 rounds, but there was no doubting the result, with all 3 judges scoring the bout 60-54 to Cheong.
The co-feature so unbeaten men colliding, as Japan's Ren Sasaki (9-0, 6) and China's Ge An Ma (6-1, 1) faced off. From the opening bell Ma was the aggressor, trying to march down the 2017 All Japan Rookie of the Year, he had mixed success but was proving to be hungry and aggressive throughout the first 3 minutes. Sadly for Ma his aggression cost him early in round 2, as he charged in and ate counters from the more technically schooled Japanese fighter, though his continued charge through the round saw him hurting Sasaki later in round, in what was a brilliant 3 minutes of action.
Ma continued to be ultra aggressive in round 3, trudging forward behind a tight guard, before unloading with hooks when in range, catching Sasaki from some unorthodox angles. Despite continuing to be aggressive his work rate was slowing and Sasaki was getting a better read on Ma, countering well, and landing the better blows whilst maintaining his range. The exhaustion was getting Ma as the rounds went on, and more and more mistakes were being made by him, whilst his work rate was grinding to a halt. In round 6 Sasaki jump on a mistake, rocking him in the corner and leaving him cut. The referee quickly intervened and stopper the bout, saving Ma and giving Sasaki the TKO win, saving Japanese fighters from a white wash on the show.
In the main event we saw Hong Kong's top prospect Raymond Poon KaiChing (7-2, 4) take on Chinese visitor Xiang Li (7-2-1, 2) for a trio of minor regional titles. Poon,the popular local, brought the pressure to begin with, and did so in a very intelligent manner, though by the end of the round Li was starting to find his range and tagging Poon with love sharp combinations of straight shots out of the southpaw stance.
As the fight went on Li began to stay in the pocket more, and even come forward at times, but never seemed able to budge the naturally stronger Poon. Li was having moments, but they seemed to be out numbered by the more eye catching blows of Poon through the first 4 rounds.
In round 5 Li managed to have his first real break through as he picked up his output and and started to essentially suffocate Poon with his offensive work, not giving Poon any time to catch his breath. Poon would manage to create some space to work in round 6, though Li continued to press, really hammering the body of Poon up close in what was a brilliant 3 minutes of action. The incredible action continued in round 7, a round that swung one way then the other, as both men began to tire. The crowd tried to spur on the local, with a loud "Raymond" chant, but it seemed to inspire Li just as much as Poon.
Despite both having put a lot into the fight neither wanted to just accept a loss and the final rounds saw both fighters getting their second wind. The final 2 rounds were excellent, with both tiredly unloading leather, neither man willing to leave anything in the tank. Poon was the man pressing but Li was working excellently at mid range, unloading and using his speed and straight punches to try and impress the judges in the last moments of the bout.
After 10 rounds it was hard call the winner of the main event. Poon was the local, the crowd favourite and seemed likely to get the close rounds, Li had been the better boxer, landing the high volume if shots and looking the more accomplished boxer. The scores came in, 96-94, 99-91 and 97-93. The second score causing some real confusion, before Li was announced as the winner.
We had Li winning, but it was close, hotly contested and well worth a re-watch. It's one of the hidden gems of the year, and every fan owes it to themselves to give this one a watch before the year is over.
Whilst the card was certainly not a top level show, it was entertaining and DEF HK know how to put on a good lower level card or well matched bouts. Hopefully these continue, despite loss for Poon. Even in defeat his reputation was enhanced.
The first title fight to be held in Asia in 2019 saw Chinese novice Xiang Li (4-0, 3) [李想] take on Filipino foe Arvin Yurong (12-2, 3) in a battle for the WBO Oriental Youth Lightweight title, in what was the first ever bout for the title.
The bout started cautiously, with Li staying on the outside early on and trying to maintain distance whilst backing off, that was despite looking like the more physically powerful man. Yurong however took Li's negativity as a sign to come forward and he had the first real success, with a combination mid way through the round. Li wasn't going to allow the round to just slip by however and came on strong in the later stages, whilst making his size and power count.
Li began the second round in much the same way that he ended the first, though this time Yurong went with him. Yurong had moments when he was firing back, but seemed to be backed up quite often as the power of Li took an effect on the Filipino. To his credit Yurong repeatedly bit down on his gum shield, looked to cut the space and work on the inside, where Li looked less comfortable than the visitor.
Yurong's determination saw him make round 3 into a firefight, though it seemed like it was a bad idea with Li being the bigger puncher and hurting him in the first minute. The big shots from Li were landing clean to head and body and he was throwing with real spite, though Yurong was showing a real warrior spirit in repeatedly walking forward, trying to get inside and work away with a high volume and body shots. It was a risky game plan from the Filipino, but a smart one given that Li was such a novice and had only gone beyond 3 rounds once, back in his debut.
Sadly for Yurong he paid for his risky tactics in round 4 as Li's power shook him, and sent him down to the canvas with a huge right hand late in the round, a round that Yurong had had real success in. Yurong tried to beat the count but he seemed completely gone and the referee rightfully stopped the action.
With the win Li claims his first title whilst Yurong suffers his second stoppage loss. There's a lot to like about Li, but there is a lot of improvements needed before he steps up a level. Despite the loss we'd love to see more of Yurnong, who looks like the sort of fighter who will always give his all, win or lose, and we can't criticise fighters like that!
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