Up next for Chinese boxing is the enigmatic Ik Yang (19-0-0-1, 14) who looks to claim the vacant IBF Light Welterweight title as he takes on fellow unbeaten Cesar Rene Cuenca (47-0-0-2, 2), from the boxing hotbed of Argentina.
Unlike Ming and Shiming it's fair to say there is something a little bit special about Yang. It's hard to say “what” is special about him, but there is certainly something that stands out about him. It could be the fact he seems to fight like a wild man with taunting and shots from very unorthodox angles, it could be peculiar defense or his personality but he's a special fighter and potentially the figure of Chinese boxing movement over the next few years.
In the ring Yang is a showman who brings a languageless charisma to the ring. Whilst there he can box and he can fight. Although crude he brings a bang and real excitement, something Chinese boxing has lacked at times, despite the success of Rex Tso. Although perhaps lacking something upstairs it does seem like Yang knows how to play an audience and how to get the media to pay attention to him. In fact in Yang's Macau debut, back in June 2012, he actually stole his show with his boxing and got rave reviews by many who saw him in action.
Since making his Macau debut more than 3 years ago Yang has become a staple in the area with 4 fights there, including his excellent win over Patomsuk Pathompothong in March. It was that win that opened the door to the “Wildman of Chinese boxing” to get his world title fight, though at the time it wasn't clear who he'd be fighting, or when.
Since Yang's win over Patomsuk we've seen American fighter Lamont Peterson get stripped of his title, and open up a fight between Yang and Argentina's infamous Cuenca, a man with a 4.08% stoppage rate.
Cuenca boasts one of the long unbeaten runs in the sport. At 49 fights he has actually gone more fights with out a loss than Floyd Mayweather Jr, however he has never competed close to the level of Mayweather. In fact in his 49 fights it's hard to find too many recognisable opponents. His most notable foes are probably Albert Mensah, Carlos Wilfredo Vilches and Jose Alfaro. Good fighters in their own right, but not sensational fighters by any means.
Cuenca's most recent bout was his contest with Mensah back in May 2014. That bout was an IBF eliminator and it showed a lot of what Cuenca is about. He's a fight who uses a lot of quick and intelligent movement whilst using his jab as his key weapon. He's got good timing and is technically well schooled though his lack of power is real issue and he often looks a little predictable fighting almost entirely behind his southpaw jab, though he does have a sharp straight left. It's also notable that he seems to slap a lot of his punches and rarely puts his weight fully into a shot.
Something that is notable about Cuenca's past fights is that they often take place in large rings allowing him to make the most of his movement. What's notable is that he won't have that same privilege in Macau. Instead he'll be dumped into a relatively small ring where space will be at a premium and where he'll be forced to use a lot more energy to stay away from his foe.
Watching Cuenca is actually really interesting for his movement with is genuinely very intelligent. However he's now 34 and hasn't fought in a year. Those things will almost certainly effect his energy, timing and sharpness, all of which he depends on when he's at his best. If he runs out of steam or can't control a wild man like Yang he could find himself in a lot of trouble, especially late on.
We're expecting to see a less than sharp Cuenca in action and we're expecting to see him put into a ring that isn't friendly to his style. If we're right then the Argentinian will find himself forced to fight more than usual. Although technically a much better boxer than Yang we're expecting to see Cuenca bulled about, rushed, and tagged by caveman like shots from the Chinese fighter who will always look the busier man. Given Cuenca is quite negative but appears to be tough we're expect to see him make schedule but lose a wide decision with the judges not buying in to his hit and run strategy.