Macau might not be a boxing hotspot yet but it is a growing market and it is somewhere that Bob Arum, one of the world's premier promoters, has targeted as an Asian boxing hub. He has built his small Asian boxing empire on the potential success of one man, Zou Shiming (6-0, 1).
Shiming, a former Chinese amateur star, is potentially the key to opening up not only Macau but China as a whole. His amateur success made him an instant name to remember in the professional ranks and also seemed to make him an instant enemy for many fight fans who were against the hype he was receiving. On march 7th Shiming has a chance to live up to the hype and claim a world title in just his 7th professional bout. Doing so would see Bob Arum's investment in Shiming look like an incredibly shrewd bit of business whilst a loss may well end the Macau experiment, or at least temporarily derail it.
Trying to expose the Shiming myth is a former amateur rival, Thailand's Amant Ruenroeng (14-0, 5), the current IBF Flyweight champion and a serious contender for the 2014 Fighter of the Year award.
Prior to last year only the hardcore were aware of Ruenroeng. He was a solid amateur but not an international star like Shiming. He had however, prior to the start of last year, ran up an 11-0 (5) record and moved quietly into the IBF rankings whilst fans in Thailand had quietly been raving about Ruenroeng and his life, which had turned from crime to a national amateur success story.
In the amateurs these two met thrice with Shiming holding a 2-1 edge in the unpaid ranks. It's fair to say that that rivalry, a friendly but highly competitive one, has helped lead us to where we are. Shiming is looking to repeated his success in the professional ranks whilst Amnat is looking to avenge his losses and continue to develop his professional career, which has been very good so far.
For those who have hated on Shiming since he turned professional in 2013 it's fair to say they have some credit to their views. Shiming has been hyped, he has been over-payed and he has been given preferential treatment. He has however worked hard, quickly developed a professional style and he has been fast tracked. He has however also brought international attention to the Flyweight division, offered some fans a chance to see Flyweights in action and brought HBO camera's to Macau.
On his debut, against Eleazar Valenzuela in April 2013, Shiming looked awful. He was slapping, still looking like an amateur and really didn't impress. It seemed as if Bob Arum had signed a very pricey bust. Fight after fight however Shiming improved. This was seen most impressively in his last two bouts which saw him take wide decisions over Luis De la Rosa and Kwanpichit OnsongchaiGym.
We'll admit we were impressed, for the most part, with Shiming's performance against Kwanpichit. Shiming dropped the then unbeaten Thai numerous and appeared to have secured a stoppage at one point, though Danrex Tapdasan blew the call. He did revert back to type late on and failed to close the show but for a man in the 6th bout of his career and going to his first 12 rounder bout he was impressive.
Shiming's amateur experience is of course one of his big strengths though it's certainly not his only one. He of course has Bob Arum's financial backing and the support of China though he also has blurring handspeed, under-rated power, beautiful combinations and genuine skills. On the other hand he lacks killer instinct, he's not a concussive puncher and he still reverts to slapping at times. There is plenty to be impressed by but there is holes.
For those who haven't seen Ruenroeng we need to ask how you managed to ignore him last year. The rangy Thai is a very relaxed boxer who is wonderful as a counter puncher and sensational as a boxer. His 2014 was a stand out year, and were it not for Naoya Inoue there would be few denying Ruenroeng as the Asian fighter of the year. He began the year by out pointing experienced Filipino Rocky Fuentes in a bout for the IBF Flyweight title, that win alone was impressive and a brilliant way to announce himself on the world stage. In his first defence of the title he defeated the then unbeaten Kazuto Ioka, in Japan, as he neutralised Ioka and made Ioka fight the wrong fight, before then adding McWilliams Arroyo to his list of victims with a narrow points win in Thailand.
All 3 of those bouts were great wins for Ruenroeng though they all seemed to show something different about the Thai. Against Fuentes he managed to move like a ballerina and kept Fuentes from making the most of his relentless pressure, against Ioka the jab was key to stopping Ioka from settling whilst against Arroyo we saw heart and determination as well as some dirty and negative tactics. What they all showed however was that Ruenroeng had very good technique, very solid defense, very quick hands and a relative lack of power. Like Shiming he is good, but clearly lacks in some areas.
When the two men meet we're going to have an abundance of handspeed with a lack of power. It's not going to be explosive but it will be exciting and intriguing with both men knowing what is at stake.
At a neutral venue we would favour Ruenroeng, who appears the more polished professional. But we wouldn't feel confident. In Macau that shifts. We have to favour Shiming, especially with Bob Arum's investment and the potential for Shiming to become one of the sports major cash cows. Regardless of venue however we suspect this will be very competitive with neither man doing much to clearly define himself against his opponent. The rounds will be close, the fight will be close and no matter who wins the loser will feel wronged.
What we expect is almost an amateur-esque contest fought between two very talented fighters who rely on their speed and skills more than their power and strength. Early on we think the bout will be a typical well fought boxing contest with little in terms of clinches or brawling. In the middle and later rounds however we think things could get messy with Ruenroeng trying to mess things up a bit and Shiming reverting to slapping. It's during those rounds that the fight will likely be decided on the scorecards of the neutrals.
We're expecting poor scorecards in favour of Shiming though we're also expecting a fight that will be too close to really call on anyone's card in a fight that will hopefully bring more attention to one of the sports best divisions.
(Image courtesy of http://www.bcmagazine.net)
For years the Minimumweight division has been derided as a dull one with little in terms of action, big fights or even interesting match ups. At the moment however the division does seem to be simmering and it seems like there is some really promising match ups there and a swathe of fighters worth making a note of. Of course champions like Katsunari Takayama, Hekkie Budler and Wanheng Menayothin are the “stars” of the division on paper but below those 3 men there is a rising generation of fighters such as Kosei Tanaka, Ken Shiro, Genki Hanai and Chanchai CP Freshmart.
Arguably the leader of this new generation of talent in the lowest weight class is the current WBA interim champion Knockout CP Freshmart (9-0, 4), who looks to fend off one of the “old generation” of fighters this coming week as he defends his title against Indonesian veteran Muhammad Rachman (65-11-5, 35). It's as “Old Skool” Vs “New Skool” as the division will really allow and amazingly there is 19 years of age difference between the two men.
The 43 year old Rachman really is old skool. He began his career in the early 1990's, just years after the Minimumweight division began to be recognised, and has since faced a slew of fighters of interest ranging from former champions, like Nico Thomas, to current day contenders, like Denver Cuello.
At his best, in the mid 00's, Rachman was a force to be reckoned with and for almost 3 years he was the IBF champion with defenses against Fahlan Sakkreerin, Omar Soto and Benjie Sorolla. Those days however are almost a decade gone, and even then Rachman was old for a man in the Minimumweight division.
Although looking shot following the loss of his IBF title in 2007 Rachman for a short lived return to success in 2011 when he shocked the then unbeaten Kwanthai Sithmoreseng to claim the WBA title and become a 2-time champion. The win over Kwanthai saw Rachman becoming the division's oldest champion but his reign was short lived as he lost the title just a few months later in a somewhat competitive bout against Pornsawan Porpramook.
The bout with Porpramook was the last notable one for Rachman and that bout came back in July 2011. Since then he has scored a couple of low profile wins over Thai journeymen and actually been a promoter. For a number of small Indonesian shows.
Whilst Rachman has wound down his career we have seen the division change drastically and Knockout CP Freshmart has been part of that change.
Knockout only debuted in June 2012 when he beat Marzon Cabilla for the WBC Youth Minimumweight title. Since then his rise through the ranks has been a quick one with his combination of Muay Thai experience, power, skills and desire, as well as financial backing to allow him to be fast tracked.
Last October Knockout scored the best win of his career when he defeated Carlos Buitrago in a controversially scored bout in Buriram. The win was, for Knockout, huge and put him on the boxing map though many felt he had been fortunate to claim the win. In that bout his power didn't have the effect he had hoped with and his relative lack of skills did see Buitrago winning rounds just due to a huge differential in skills. At the end of the day however Knockout did enough to convince the judges he deserved the win, albeit with some help from the fans who cheered his every bit of success in the ring.
Whilst Knockout is a relative newcomer to boxing he was a former standout Muay Thai fighter who really accomplished all he could before turning his attention to western boxing. It was due to that Muay Thai experience that he was fast tracked, though in many ways he needs more experience before fighting one of the top guys in the division. We suspect that's why Knockout is fighting Rachman who has proven to be tough despite his advanced age.
In a career spanning more than 20 years and 80 bouts Rachman has only been stopped once, by the excellent Denver Cuello. It's an amazing stat when you look through who Rachman has fought but it's the perfect example of why he has been selected here. He's no longer a danger but he's tough and will likely be able to see out 12 rounds with Knockout. Rachman's being viewed not only as a “safe” and “tough” opponent but also a big name in the division and a win over him here, as expected, will help raise Knockout's profile whilst also preparing him, in some ways, for a bout against one of the better fighters in the division.
It's thought that if Knockout wins here, which he should, he will target the WBA “regular” title. His performance, more than the result, will likely tell us whether he will have to wait for his shot at the “regular” title, currently held by Hekkie Budler.
In amateur boxing Kazakhstan is one of the biggest forces in the sport. On the professional level hat success hasn't quite been repeated. Despite the fact the country isn't a major player in the professional ranks it does have one of the sports true stars and most exciting fighters, Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (31-0, 28). Golovkin, also known as “GGG” is the current WBA “super”, WBC “interim” and IBO Middleweight champion as well as one of the sports most exciting, talented and destructive fighters. The 32 year old, originally from Karaganda though now based in Stuttgart, has left a wake of destruction behind him in recent years and will be hoping to bulldoze through another opponent on February 21st as he returns to fight in Monaco for the 3rd time.
The well travelled Golovkin has has made his name globally. Originally it was in the amateurs that he caught the attention of fans though since turning professional he has fought Germany, Denmark, Panama, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, USA and Monaco. In each of those countries he has stopped opponents, battered them, beaten them and broken them. Not only has he been beating up opponents for fun but he has been doing it impressive and making light work of solid contenders, former champions and other top 10 level fighters.
What has made Golovkin so impressive is that he can box or bang and often combines his devastating power with clever boxing and an insane amount of intelligent pressure. The pressure often makes opponents fearful of throwing and the power punishes opponents who do feel confident enough to try and fight Golovkin off.
For many Golovkin's up coming bout will be his toughest as he takes on Britain's highly regarded Martin Murray (29-1-1, 12) a man who has never been dominated and, in the eyes of some, should be undefeated.
Murray isn't like Golovkin and isn't like anyone Golovkin has faced in recent years. He is a defensively sound, sharp puncher who is big, strong and confident. He's a man who marched over to Germany and pushed Felix Sturm all the way in a bout scored a draw then later went over the Argentina in front of 40,000 fans and gave Sergio Martinez a very hard bout on route to a controversial loss. In both of those bouts Murray was a visitor and gave a great account of himself in bouts many though he won courtesy of his tight defense, intense pressure and sharp counter punching.
What Murray does so well is neutralise fighters offensive work whilst slowly getting his offense off. He can be a slow started but he tends to find a way to stop opponents from getting going. If he can shut down Golovkin's offense then it would be very impressive though we suspect Golovkin will find holes, particularly around the mid section of the Brit. Those holes will be taken advantage of and we suspect the Kazakh will eventually break down Murray who lacks the fire power to keep Golovkin off him. It won't a 1-punch KO style from Golovkin, such as his win over Lujuan Simon in Germany or his Monaco debut against Nobuhiro Ishida, but it will be a gradual breaking down process that eventually sees Murray being saved.
If Murray can do the impossible and shut down Golovkin's offense then we could have a very interesting bout, especially if Murray wants to try and fight to his usual style. He's not the quickest or the heaviest handed but the Brit is well schooled and if he can begin to frustrate Golovkin with his defence then he may well find a way to steal rounds. Sadly however we think Golovkin, even if he struggles to land clean, will have the boxing ability to fall back on and take a clear decision win by simple boxing.
Of the two scenarios however we do suspect that Golokin will find holes and will break down Murray eventually, even if it does take a few rounds longer than some of his recent bouts. Murray may have been in with good fighters but none of them have been as good, as heavy handed or as intelligent as Golovkin and that is why Golovkin will do what others haven't and break down Murray.
From what we understand a win here for Golovkin will see return to action in the US in Summer as he continues to develop his reputation as one of the best fighters on the planet. It's hoped that that bout will be against Miguel Cotto as Golovkin finally gets a shot at the linear Middleweight title before a possible move to Super Middleweight either later this year or early next year.
(Image courtesy of www.sportsviewlondon.com)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.