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)
World Title Results
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