Upsets regularly happen in this sport, but rarely do they shake a full continent. That however happened today when the WBO Flyweight world title was ripped from the hands of Chinese star Zou Shiming (9-2, 2) [邹市明] by little known Japanese fighter Sho Kimura (15-1-2, 8) [木村翔], who refused to read the script and upset a man priced as a 1/40 favourite!
Kimura rarely looked like a man taking a leap up in class as he pressured Shiming from the opening round, forcing the Chinese fighter to fight at a pace he never seemed comfortable with. That was despite Shiming using his boxing skills well, and avoiding a lot of the heavy leather Kimura threw his way.
As the bout progressed Kimura began to have growing success, landing notably to the body, and despite taking some solid counters he never seemed to be discouraged by what Shiming threw his way, including some really eye catching shots. Instead it seemed as if the Chinese fighter was beginning to question himself, moving more than fighting and needing to do so whilst Kimura continued to press.
That pressure came at a cost to Kimura, who was cut over the right eye from a head clash, but the blood seemed to drive the challenger on, further leaving Shiming in trouble.
Shiming's footwork began to falter in the later rounds, twice slipping in his own corner, and it seemed clear he was tiring from the incessant and often wasteful movement. As a result Kimura was getting more and more chances and he made the most of them in round 11 letting his hands go on a tiring Shiming who fell to the canvas as Kimura unloaded. The Chinese fighter, showing clear signs of exhaustion, got back to his feet but the referee knew he was unfit to continue waving off the bout and saving the Chinese hero from extra punishment.
With the loss Shiming likely looks at retirement, and will be kicking himself for having this fight after an overly long training camp that likely left him less than 100%. At 36 he's old, very old for a Flyweight, and it's hard to see him mounting any sort of a comeback. For Kimura however it's a career defining win, and one that will live on long with the Japanese fans, who will perhaps see this as a huge win over a major geopolitical rival.
Amazingly with the win Kimura becomes only the 9th Japanese fighter* to win a world title title outside of Japan, the first since Tomoki Kameda back in 2013, the first to do so on Chinese soil and helps secure Japan's graps on the Flyweight division, becoming their third reigning champion at the weight alongside WBA champion Kazuto Ioka and WBC kingpin Daigo Higa. Also, impressively, Japan now has 12 Japanese born world champions, and 13 world champions if we include Teiken promoted Jorge Linares, showing just how much of a high Japanese boxing is on right now!
*Koki Eto's WBA "interim" Flyweight title isn't included in this stat
(Image courtesy of boxingnews.jp)
For only the second time ever a Chinese man holds a recognised world title, as earlier tonight former amateur star Zou Shiming (9-1, 2) [邹市明] defeated Thailand's Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym (39-2-2, 24) [ขวัญพิชิต 13เหรียญเอ็กซ์เพลส] and claimed the previously vacant WBO Flyweight title, marking his “successful” transition from amateur great to professional world champion.
The two men were fighting for the second time, having first fought back in 2014 when Shiming easily beat Kwanpichit, and like their first bout it was clear they were in totally different leagues. In fact it wasn't so much a case of whether Shiming would win again, but rather whether he was capable of stopping the Thai.
From the opening stages it seemed clear that Shiming had improved since their first bout, sitting on his shots more and showing a more polished and professional style than he had in their first bout. The style left him more open to counters, and Kwanpichit did have the occasional bit of success, but those moments were few and far between with the Thai being tagged at will. In the second round the success of Shiming worked to great effect with a right hand dropping the Thai.
Shiming continued to dominate through the middle rounds of the fight, though at times reverted to the Shiming we all know, and many hate, with a huge amount of unnecessary movement and little final product. There were some great combinations from Shiming, but they were too few and too far, whether everyone just wishing Shiming would stay in the pocket and really look for the finish.
By the end of round 9 even Kwanpichit was looking like he wanted the bout to end, throwing Shiming down at the end of the round, likely a trick taught to him by countryman Amnat Ruenroeng who he had been training with prior to the bout. The following round Kwanpichit looked little more than a human punch bag, but one that Shiming showed too much apprehension in tagging, despite Kwanpichit stumbling around like an exhausted fighter.
Despite being clearly tired Kwanpichit was able to hear the final bell as Shiming, once again, refused to allow himself to shine. Happy to win the rounds with his feet rather than to make an impression on fans. It was a disappointing and tame ending to a hugely frustrating performance, that saw Shiming score a shut out.
For Chinese boxing the result really is great, and it gives the country a second champion after a string of failures in recent bouts, by Shiming, Ik Yang, Qiu Xiao Jun, Xiong Zhao Zhong and Yi Ming Ma. Sadly though Shiming's reign likely won't last long and it wouldn't be a shock to see him make just a single defense before coming unstuck against a B rate challenger.
For Thai boxing the bout was an insult with no one referring to Kwanpichit by his fighting name and the performance was dire. Kwanpichit never looked like he had any chance and the fact he made it to the final bell said more about Shiming's inability to actually force a stoppage.
Thankfully with the division having plenty of hungry sharks in it we're unlikely to see Shiming's reign last long, with fighters like Daigo Higa, Muhammad Waseem, Iwan Zoda and Donnie Nietes all chasing world title fights in 2017. As for Kwanpichit it's time to look for pastures new, or be used as a stepping stone for a rising youngster who actually has some potential to go places in the near future
In the past we've seen various countries become linked to poor decisions. Countries where a visiting world champion needs to score a knockout if they are to retain their world title. Countries that are next to impossible to take home the win unless you do something very special. They have notably included German, the UK, the US, Thailand and Argentina. We expected to see Macau added to that list at the start of today when Thailand's Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5) traveled to the gambling hotspot of Asia to defend his IBF Flyweight title. Amnat was up against Chinese cash cow Zou Shiming (6-1, 1) a man ear marked for a world title by Top Rank and a man who was potentially the key to opening up the Chinese boxing market.
At the end of the day however we were pleasantly surprised by the judging. For once they got it right. The judges got the fight right and didn't care about who won or lost, just about doing their job and getting the right decision. A real novelty in boxing.
Before we go any further let's just begin with an admission. The fight wasn't great. In fact it was one of the worst world title fights we can remember seeing in recent years. It was however intriguing and telling with both men showing flaws in their game plans as well as their strengths.
The fight started slowly with both men trying to see what the other had. It was very technical but very dull and frustrating with neither man really wanting to let their hands go. Instead we got a round that saw a lot of posturing, a lot of posing and a lot of feinting. In terms of actual punches the most notable thing was the jab of Amnat which appeared to be the only punch with any real consistency. It was a less than thrilling round but was a clear round for the defending champion.
In the second round we saw one of the very few talking points as Shiming scored a controversial knockdown of the champion. It appeared that Amnat slipped but the referee seemed to suggest a punch had landed. It was a harsh call but one that secured Shiming his first round of the fight, a 10-8 round. Immediately after the knockdown Shiming looked confident but refused to gamble, almost as if he knew it wasn't a real knockdown.
In round 3 we did some fire works early on but they didn't last too long with Amnat wisely using his jab to keep Shiming at range and by the end of the round Shiming looked clueless. So clueless in fact that he began to walk over to Amnat's corner until the Thai pointed him in the right direction and laughed at his foe. In some ways this mistake from Shiming summed up the fight, he didn't seem to know quite where he was or what he was supposed to be doing. All too often he found himself on the outside tasting Amnat's jab or rushing in wildly and missing, being made to look awfully silly courtesy of Amnat's clever footwork and frustrating holding that blunted Shiming's few worth while attacks.
Through the middle rounds Shiming let things slip away. He tried to come forward and he tried to act as the counter puncher but neither tactic worked as Amnat continued to use his feet and jab to blunt any momentum Shiming managed to build up. It was negative from Amnat but effectively and helped make Shiming look genuinely inept as the Chinese fighter plodded forward, refused to let his hands go and got picked off, time and time again.
Shiming's few rounds of success in the middle came in rounds 7 and 9 but even those were rounds that could easily have gone Amnat's way. Shiming was simply unable to get going, and when he did he was tagged as Amnat began to mix up both his jab and right hand. The straight right of the champion regularly sliced through the guard of Shiming whilst the short uppercuts from the champion were a thing of beauty when Shiming didn't seem to expect them.
By the start of round 10 Freddie Roach had sensed his man, the challenger, was behind. He urged Shiming to pick it up. It was clear that Roach thought his man was behind and needed to pick it up. Unfortunately for Amnat the best he could do was look silly as he chased shadows, looked amateur like and lost. It was again a case of Shiming simply not being good enough. As hard as the challenger tried he simply couldn't have any sustained success, the best he had was an occasional connect which always seemed to be answered seconds late. Even worse for Shiming was the penultimate round which saw Amnat picking up the pace and showing how world class ability as he landed a number of hard right hands. It was a round that showed how good Amnat really is, but was merely a glimpse of his overall ability.
In the final round it seemed Amnat was confident he had done enough and he did next to nothing for the entire round which he spoiled and gave away. Shiming didn't so much win it as being given it. It was however a consolation round for the challenger who had simply not done enough to win.
There was a few moments of worry after the final bell. Could the judges be set to steal the title from the champion? Could Shiming have been set for a belated Christmas present? Thankfully the answer came quickly and was a resounding no as all 3 judges scored the bout 116-111 to Amnat proving that sometimes they do all get it right.
From what we understand Amnat's next defense will come against the fan friendly Johnriel Casimero of the Philippines. That should be a much better bout than this one, which was a stinker, though there is talk of Amnat delaying that to face a voluntary challenger next time out instead. As for Shiming it's a giant question about where he goes next. He could look at claiming an OPBF title or another fringe title but on the back of this fight he really needs to buckle down and change how he fights.
For us the loss for Shiming is a double edged sword. It's fantastic that Amnat's run continues. He's a great story and the type of person who deserves success. He's gone about things the hard way and defended his title in both Japan, against Kazuto Ioka last year, and now Macau. Sadly however the loss for Shiming will see US TV again ignoring the Flyweight division and probably also a lot of Asia. Shiming was a reason for HBO to be interested in both the Flyweights and Macau, and we may end up losing the opportunity to see regular bouts involving the likes of Rex Tso, who won a FOTY contender on the undercard, and IK Yang, who looked sensational on the same under-card. Hopefully the loss for Shiming won't be the end of Macau boxing for Top Rank though there is a good chance that it will be scaled back. Sadly.
World Title Results
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