by Kieran Mulvaney
Three and a half months after opening his professional career with a unanimous points win over Eleazar Valenzuela, flyweight Zou Shiming, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and Chinese boxing royalty, headlines his second card in Macau this Saturday. As with his debut effort, the three-fight televised card will be broadcast on HBO2.
Shiming is not exactly being matched up with a beast of an opponent in his sophomore outing, which is understandable for a fighter taking only his second step on a fast track to a title. But supporting his showcase is a pair of what promise to be competitive title bouts. Here's a quick rundown of the three TV fights:
Zou Shiming vs Jesus Ortega
This one is all about the A side, and how good Shiming looks in his second outing with the legendary Freddie Roach in his corner. Ortega has fought four times as a professional, winning on three occasions; his only loss came against the only opponent who had a win to his name. That opponent, Clemente Grijalva, sported a 1-0 record when he beat Ortega; that's the record Shiming will bring into the ring, and if he doesn't hand Ortega his second loss, it will be a major upset.
All fighters take on similarly inexperienced opposition in the early stages of their professional careers, but because of his age (he's 31) and extensive amateur experience, Shiming is likely to be mixing it with the big boys sooner rather than later. His second pro bout will be his first scheduled six-rounder; should he win as expected, his third contest will be slated for eight rounds. Expect him to climb the ladder swiftly and earn a title shot in short order.
Juan Estrada vs Milan Melindo
The co-main event looks to be one of those evenly-matched, closely-fought, can't-help-but-be-exciting highlight reels. Mexico's Estrada stole the show on the last Macau card, when he overhauled veteran Brian Viloria to win a flyweight belt; he earned that shot by dint of how impressive he looked even in a losing effort against the outstanding Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez. Melindo, an undefeated Flipino, wowed the fans in attendance for the untelevised portion of April's Macau card, knocking down Tommy Seran with a left hook in the opening seconds and then knocking him out with another in the fourth round.
Both men are stand-in-the-pocket action fighters. Neither is likely to yield an inch. Expect plenty of punches and few lulls in this one.
Evgeny Gradovich vs Mauricio Munoz
Gradovich was born in Siberia, trains in California with Robert Garcia, and has been dubbed "the Mexican Russian" for his body-punching fighting style – a style he used to great effect in his last outing, defeating Billy Dib to take a featherweight belt.
His first defense of that belt comes against Munoz, who is making his second attempt to win a world title; his first, against then-super bantamweight champion Toshiaki Nishioka, ended in a ninth round stoppage defeat. That was only the second occasion Munoz fought outside his native Argentina, and the first and only time he faced truly world-class opposition; accordingly, he'll be the big underdog against Gradovich. But while not the most sophisticated boxer, he's tough as teak and ready to dish out and receive punishment. He'll find a willing trading partner in the exciting Gradovich.