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)
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