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.
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.