Facing the highly regarded Filipino Denver Cuello (33-5-6, 21), many, including ourselves felt that Zhong's reign as a world champion were number. This view was strengthened in the opening round when Cuello managed to put Zhong down and really seemed to dent the Chinese's fighters confidence.
Zhong got up from the knockdown looking fine psychically but did look mentally shaken for much of the round.
In the second round of the bout Zhong started to grow into the action and started to have real success with his right hand. The round was a close one and could have gone either way but it was obvious that the Chinese fighter was warming up.
Whilst Zhong was warming up through rounds 3 and 4 Cuello was starting to mentally crumble. He was getting frustrated at the tactics of of Zhong which he claimed involved liberal use of elbows and his head, he was looking at both the referee and his corner to help and also appeared to be suffering some kind of issue with his right hand which had left him with out a jab-thus preventing him from setting up attacks and instead he was made to look like a wild 1-handed slugger.
With the problems all getting to Cuello, Zhong started to really force himself in the bout bringing relentless pressure to the Filipino who was forced numerous times to dance away and almost run. This was notable especially in round 5 when Cuello seemed to be hurt for the first time in the bout, though the pain did appear to be more from a clash of heads than a punch.
Cuello's problems merely got worse and worse with his feet looking ragged in round 6 and his power seemingly vanishing in round 7 as Zhong took a body shot and almost seemed to ask "is that the best you got?". If they were bad enough he got the referee on his case in round 8 as the doctor took a look at his shoulder which seemed to visibly be troubling him.
Things refused to turn in favour of Cuello who was badly cut from a clash of heads in the following round. Although Zhong was deducted a point for the clash (as per the WBC's accidental foul rule) it seemed to further the idea that this wasn't going the distance. Once again Cuello was forced to use his feet and move to stay away from the on-rushing Zhong who was now looking to finish things with his fists.
Cuello managed to see out round 9 and then appeared to regain his focus, almost as if he realised he needed to get his head in to check if he was ever going to manage to turn this around. Unfortunately for the Filipino however he couldn't quite manage to real in the rounds that he had lost in the middle section of the bout. Although he managed to close the gap somewhat on Zhong, the Chinese fighter had still done enough to claim a majority decision
With Zhong having beaten Cuello, the WBC's mandatory challenger, he has legitimised himself as a world champion. There will be many questioning whether or not he's actually one of the best in the division (especially considering the fact he couldn't really hurt a 1-armed Cuello) though with the Chinese population cheering him on he certainly has the ability to be a major draw in boxing/
For Cuello this could be a major loss. Not so much that the loss it's self was a big setback (despite needing to threaten the WBC with legal action to get the fight) but the fact that his shoulder injury may be a career threatening one. It appeared as if it was a re-occurance of an injury he had previously suffered against Ivan Meneses last September. If the shoulder is as badly injured as some think then Cuello may never be the fighter that may thought he'd become.
All of us as Asian Boxing wish that Cuello has a fully and swift recovery because it would be a huge shame if boxing lost this exciting youngster at such a promising stage of his career.