So to Macao, China, the world’s true capital of sin, a pit of fervour in chance that dwarfs the take in Las Vegas weekly, a pie from which boxing, in the form of its most Machiavellian avatar, Bob Arum, desperately wants to carve itself a piece. Arum’s chariot is the most watched fighter in the history of boxing: Zou Shiming, a superstar of such enormous proportions in his native China that he was able to draw down hundreds of thousands of dollars for what amounted to preliminary contests against hopeless opposition. Shiming’s problem was only that his devotion to the amateur game that made him famous was so overstated that he entered this contest at 6-0 (with one knockout) but at thirty-three years of age. As tender as he is old in boxing terms be does not have time to play fighter and so he was matched today with the #2 contender in the white-hot flyweight division, Amnat Ruenroeng.
A bold move you might say, given that Shiming has boxed twelve rounds only once and furthermore that not only is he unranked himself but that he has never met a ranked fighter. There has been speculation, however, that Shiming may hold a sign over Ruenroeng, having bested him in the amateurs. Surging professional turns from novices Naoya Inoue and Vasyl Lomachenko may also have stiffened resolve, as did Ruenroeng’s lukewarm performance against puncher McWilliams Arroyo last September. Lurking in the shadows of that performance is a hardened fighter with a chequered past and vast experience in combat sport despite a ledger that read just 14-0 in boxing. Furthermore, he had derailed another prospect nursed by the warmth of huge promotional strength, Kazuto Ioka. Ioka had been ordained a monster in waiting by the powers that be, but was run over by a steaming Ruenroeng. Arroyo in September; Ioka in May – and a wide points victory over Rocky Fuentes last January was a run that made the Thai a fringe contender for Fighter of the Year 2014.
2015 has started well for him, too, as he today out-prodded in Shiming a fighter that carried the weight of one-hundred million dollars upon his narrow shoulders. As the man once said, money can buy you class.
An uncertainty purveyed Shiming’s work from the first and I suspect Ruenroeng, more experienced in professional combat as in life, sensed it. He adopted a waiting posture. Shiming, determined to counter, mirrored him, and Ruenroeng’s reach advantage was in play, allowing him to dominate an anaemic battle of the jabs, a disaster for the Chinese. In the second, he caught something of a break, flashing up a left hand counter as Ruenroeng tumbled away from him in a clash of knees and Shiming had a point to play with. He needed it – Ruenroeng refused to be baited even as Shiming adopted a teasing expression and poked out his chin, hands low, repeatedly through the fourth and fifth. The Thai was patient, waiting, coiled, looking for a jab that was dominating sparse action as Shiming slipped, feinted and danced his way around the ring, neglecting to throw punches.
He did manage a leaping left-hook in the fifth that I thought narrowly brought him that frame, making the fight level on my card after the questionably ruled knockdown in the second round, giving the sixth a crucial feel. Freddie Roach, superstar trainer to the superstar Shiming, sensed this and sent out his charge with instructions to throw more leather. Shiming obliged, but Ruenenroeng shaded a tense round with that irritating jab and that cobbled, sudden right.
The tension was palpable, the men climbing around each other as they clinched, Ruenroeng twice throwing Shiming to the canvas as they bumped, but it was Ruenroeng that dealt more completely with the ebb of the fight; again and again he moved away in increments designed to bring Shming onto his jab. Shiming seems willing, moving forwards with his hands high, but he looked neither the superstar amateur of his early years or the supposed professional we were sold after his last fight, against Kwanpichit, another Thai. Rather he seemed some hybrid of the two, and one that had brought to the table the weakest of both worlds. Ruenroeng was dominating Shiming with the jab, controlling him with it, instilling within him a fear of it. Roach’s exhortations became more and more extravagant between rounds until he hit the heights of demanding the Chinese let his hands go; there appeared no more for the trainer to give. Shiming, after just six professional fights, seemed gunshy. By the eleventh, he surely needed a knockout on any cognitive card and a different tension began to build – could an unheralded Thai jailbird come to the newly anointed sin city and receive the blessing of a fair decision?
Boxing, as well as Ruenroeng was the winner here today. My card read 116-111 to the Thai and so did that of all three official cards. Ruenroeng dominated by my eye. He was clearly the stronger man, he clearly wielded the better jab and when he threw it, the right hand was on a postage stamp behind that jab. For all that he did little, Shiming often did nothing and he paid for it in humiliation. A comeback is likely with so much money on the table, but how does he improve on this performance? It is the ultimate embarrassment for the name trainer to find himself yelling into the face of a charge who does not speak his language in the late rounds that his man “throw more combinations”, but there was nothing else for Roach to say. It was exactly what Shiming needed to do; he was incapable.
For Ruenroeng, big fights lie ahead for what passes at 112lbs for big money, against the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Juan Francisco Estrada or Naoya Inoue.
For Shiming, it’s a long, hard look in the mirror.
— Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank