In 2013 Chinese former amateur star Zou Shiming (9-1, 2) made his professional debut, beating Eleazar Valenzuela in Macau in what was supposed to be the start of a new era of Chinese boxing. On his debut Shiming failed to set the world alight, despite the best efforts of Bob Arum. Less than 2 years after his debut Shiming got his first rack at a world title, coming up short against former amateur foe Amnat Ruenroeng. In 2016 he rebuilt, claiming the WBO title at the end of the year with his second victory over Kwanpichit OnesongChaigym in November.
This coming Friday Shiming returns to the ring to make his first defense of that title, taking on Japanese challenger Sho Kimura (14-1-2, 7) in Shnaghai, in the first bout of Shiming's not to be promoted by Arum following issues between the two in recent months.
The bout isn't likely to get much attention in the West, especially with the lack of Arum's involvement, but it will be of significance in the Flyweight division, in China and in the wider Asian area with multiple fighters viewing the winner as their potential route to a title, or a unification bout.
As an amateur Shiming was a star. A 2 time Olympic gold medal winner and a 3-time world amateur champion. He relied on his understanding of the amateur system, throwing a lot of shots with his speed and skirting in and out. At times he was really impressive, but at others he was a messy nightmare of a fighter to face, with his wrestling and spoiling. Whatever tactics he used in the unpaid ranks, he got wins, and got them frequently against some of the top fighters in the world.
As a professional he had a number of problems. He turned professional incredibly late, debuting just a month before his 32nd birthday, and struggled to adapt to the professional style, and refusing to ever fully commit to fighting like a professional. Rather than fighting with combinations and power he was happy to skip though bouts with a frustrating style, and one that never bode well to American fans. He had a bright future lined up, but failed to do what he needed to to make the most of it.
His success in the professional ranks looks good, winning a world title in his 10th bout, but the reality is his competition has, for the most part, been poor and well selected and he's unlikely to eve live up to what he talent could have done. He's still quick, nimble and has a good engine, but he hardly looks like the man to kick start Chinese boxing in the way that people had hoped.
When it comes to Kimura only the Japanese fans, and the real hardcore of fans outside of Asia, will have heard of him. He began his career just 16 days after Shiming made his debut and was actually stopped in 75 seconds. Since then however he has found his footing and gone 16 fights unbeaten, picked up wins on international soil and claimed his first professional title. He has done so against mostly poor opponent, but he does hold a very good win over Masahiro Sakamoto, which saw Kimura claim the WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title back in November.
Although not a puncher Sakamoto has stopped 7 of his last 8, picking up stoppages in Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong, and has gone 12 rounds in his last decision win. Showing he has experience over the longer distance, but can see off opponents too, and do so on the road. It's also worth noting that at 28 he's coming in to his prime, and looks very relaxed and composed in the ring.
Kimura doesn't have the speed of Shiming, but he looks like a more professional fighter than the champion. A less naturally gifted on, but one who punches through the target, one who will look to hurt his opponents, and one who uses calculated pressure to get to his man and uses body shots to slow them.
On paper Kimura is the big under-dog, and in the eyes of many he's a hand selected opponent to help amp up a potential bout between Shiming and WBA champion Kazuto Ioka. The reality however is that Kimura has the schooling and drive to give Shiming a real test. Shiming should have the natural ability to take the win, but we suspect he will have to work hard for it and will be dragged into a tougher than expected contest.
The Flyweight division has had a major makeover in the last 12 months, with fighters like Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco abandoning the division to chase glories at Super Flyweight whilst likes like Daigo Higa and Muhammad Waseem have emerged as key hopefuls going forward. Due to the shake ups we've seen several titles become vacant an on November 5th we see one of those vacancies being filled, as Chinese star Zou shiming (8-1, 2) takes on Thai veteran Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym (39-1-2, 24), for the WBO title in a rematch that no one really wanted.
For those with half decent memories they may remember that these two men, now both 35 years old, fought back in 2014. In that bout Shiming dominated Kwanpichit, coming close to an opening round stoppage before ultimate winning a decision with scores of 120-103 and 119-106, twice. Since that bout Kwanpichit has gone unbeaten, winning 12 in a row all by stoppage, though has been matched ridiculously softly whilst claiming and defending the WBO Oriental title, to boost his ranking. Shiming on the other hand has gone 2-1 (1), being much less active but fighting at a higher level, with a loss to the then IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng.
On paper the win over Kwanpichit back in 2014 is Shiming's best victory to date, and goes along with a decent win over Luis De la Rosa. That's not saying a lot when you look at the depth of the Flyweight division, with a combination of stars like Kazuto Ioka, prospects like Iwan Zoda, veteran's like Takuya Kogawa and rising former champions like Donnie Nietes, but they are solid contender type wins. Whilst his best wins as a professional haven't been great he is a fantastic boxer, a former amateur star and a talented speedy boxer. Unfortunately his style is still rooted in his amateur style, rather than progressing into a more professional style, and he's still showing real flaws in sitting down on his punches and finishing opponents off, something that was clear last time out against the awful Jozsef Ajtai.
At his best Shiming is a skilled speedster. It's simplifying things a bit, but he really a skilled speedster. Sadly his lack of power, inability to cut the ring off, unwillingness to sit on his punches and lack of extra gear, along with his age, are all going to stop him from becoming a star. That has been made even harder for him due to the expectation on his shoulders courtesy of Top Rank and HBO, who raved about him from his debut but have yet to see him deliver, and at 35 he's in “now or never” land.
Kwanpichit, now listed on boxrec by his birth name of Prasitsak Papoem rather than his fighting name, looks like a man with an incredible record on paper. Even more so when you consider he is 13-1-1 in title fights, and a 2-weight WBO Oriental champion. Sadly though looking through his competition it's a very padded record and there is a specific fighter with a 4-0 (3) record in the division who is far more proven than Kwanpichit. Notably he is 0-1 outside of Thailand and has struggled at times at home, with a very fortunate result 3 years ago against Ben Mananquil and another lucky one against Jayar Estremos, a Filipino journeyman. It's fair to sat he is 12-0 (12) since losing to Shiming but those opponents had a combined 113-99-13 which sums up the level he has been fighting at pretty fairly.
In the ring Kwanpichit isn't actually terrible. He's not a world class Flyweight, but he's not terrible and can fight a bit, he's tough, with a good engine. Unfortunately he's a bit basic and does nothing in an outstanding manner, he's a very slow starter and whilst he is game he could, very easily, have had two opening round stoppages against his name, including one to Shiming. Despite being a slow started he does grow into fights, as he showed against Shiming, and if he's improved he might be able to give Shiming a better test than last time out.
Whilst we think Kwanpichit might be a better test than last time, it's hard to see anything but a win for the Chinese star. Whether that's an early stoppage, with Kwanpichit's early vulnerabilities being jumped on, or a wide decision, with Kwanpichit lasting to the final bell, is hard to predict but it's very hard to see how Kwanpichit wins here. As a result we suspect Shiming will become China's second world champion, the first to be crowned on foreign soil. Unfortunately for him it's unlikely his reign will last long with the sharks, such as Nietes and and Francisco Rodriguez, Jr., already circling the title belt.
(Image courtesy of The Champion - Thailand)
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)
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.