Miguel Vazquez Goes the Distance to Earn Unanimous Decision

By Tim Smith

Photo Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Over a year’s worth of ring rust and a cut above his left eye was not enough to slow down Miguel Vazquez in successfully defending his IBF lightweight championship against Denis Shafikov. Vazquez scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Shafikov at the Cotai Arena in Macao, China on Saturday.

Looking at the three judges’ scorecards, it seemed Shafikov slowly slid down a hill toward a loss to Vazquez. Judge Patricia Jarman scored it 115-113. Judge Chris Wilson scored it 116-112. And judge Sylvian Leblanc scored it 119-109. It looked like they were all watching a different fight and they may have been. Vazquez and Shafikov, clumsy and awkward at times, made it difficult to cleanly score rounds. But it was clear that Vazquez was in control for most of the match as Shafikov never found a way to cut off the ring or land any telling blows.

Vazquez (34-3, 13 KOs) entered the ring expecting a grueling match against Shafikov (33-1-1, 18 KOs), who had fought most of his previous 34 matches in Russia and had chalked up an undefeated record. Shafikov, a 5-foot-5 fireplug known for pressing the action, was anxious to prove that he deserved to be in the world championship ranks.

For those expecting fireworks it proved to be a disappointing affair, as the short southpaw Shafikov had trouble finding his range. The 5-foot-10 Vazquez, using his height and reach advantage, often seemed two steps ahead of the 28-year-old Russian challenger. Vazquez used his jab to keep Shafikov at bay. When Shafikov tried to rush in and press the action, Vazquez used his speed and mobility to slip away or he would nail Shafikov with sharp left uppercuts and looping right hands. They weren’t hard enough to stun or knockout Shafikov, but it was just as effective, as Vazquez was scoring points on the way to a unanimous decision.

In the fourth round there was a clash of heads as a cut opened over Vazquez’s left eye. It seemed to throw a sense of urgency into Vazquez and he started to engage more, which played into Shafikov’s game plan of coming forward and putting pressure on Vazquez. But it was short lived as Vazquez's cutman closed the gash and took away that sense of urgency.

In the fifth round Shafikov seemed to get within range to land some shots, but Vazquez was smart enough to smother Shafikov’s punches and tie him up. When Shafikov thought he had gotten close enough to land, he would unleash a shot and wind up swinging at air as Vazquez pedaled away.

Another accidental head butt in the seventh round opened a nasty cut over Shafikov’s right eye, but it didn’t deter him from coming forward. Though it had to be frustrating for Shafikov to land nothing more than potshots against Vazquez, give him credit for never giving up. He kept trying, and in the later rounds was able to land a few telling shots, including a jarring straight right in the seventh.

But it wasn’t enough. The two boxers grappled with each other in the eighth round and fell to the canvas. That was as close to a knockdown as either man get in this fight.

Shafikov had his best round in the 10th. He caught Vazquez with some sharp combinations on a couple of occasions, but it was too little, too late. Vazquez nailed Shafikov with a powerful counter right as Shafikov pressed. That seemed to stun Shafikov, who was bloodied from that cut over his right eye. The momentum was broken when the referee called a timeout to cut off a dangling piece of tape on Vazquez’s glove.

The best that can be said for Shafikov, particularly in his effort against the crafty Vazquez, is that he is a game fighter.

Vazquez’s style is atypical of other Mexican greats. He would rather box his way out of trouble than run headlong into a brawl. His nickname is El Titere (The Puppet) because of his lanky, loose-limb build and because he likes to bounce around. The 27-year-old Vazquez started out as a welterweight and his three losses came at welterweight and junior welterweight, losing to WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley and Saul “Canelo’’ Alvarez earlier in his career. All three losses were by decision and they came after Vazquez acquitted himself well. Now that he has moved down in weight, it appears that he has found his championship groove.

It was the eighth successful title defense for Vazquez, who has fought his way into the mix of one of the hottest divisions in boxing with the victory over Shafikov. He is now in line for possible matches against WBC interim champion Omar Figueroa, WBA champion Richard Abril, and the winner of the upcoming match between Terrance Crawford and Ricky Burns.

Boxing Returns to Macau on HBO2

By Kieran Mulvaney

Miguel Vazquez - Photo Credit: Chris Farina/Top Rank

Three months after Manny Pacquiao defeated Brandon Rios at the Venetian Macao, boxing returns to Macau on Saturday in the form of a double-header televised on HBO 2.

In the main event, lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez defends his belt against undefeated Russian Denis Shafikov, a former European 140-pound champion who has moved down in weight for his last few fights. Nicknamed "Genghis Khan," Shafikov is a compact, left-handed pressure fighter, who likes to use hooks to cut off the ring and keep his foe in front of him, and work his opponent to the body before switching his attack upstairs.

He may have his work cut out for him against Vazquez, whose style has befuddled and beaten one opponent after another. Vazquez takes the art of defense to another level, constantly circling backward and away, forcing his foes to lunge forward and using his long reach to keep them at the end of his jab. It's a style that is more likely to be described as efficient than as exciting, but it is certainly effective: the Mexican has suffered just three defeats in 36 contests, none of which have come at lightweight. One was against Timothy Bradley, the former junior lightweight and current welterweight champion, and the other two were to Saul Alvarez, who plies his trade these days at junior middleweight.

The matchup is a classic clash of styles. Will Shafikov be able to close the distance and force Vazquez to stand and fight? Or will Vazquez be able to deploy his movement to keep Shafikov at range and frustrate the shorter man's efforts to turn the contest into more of a brawl?

Of course, no fight card from Macau would be complete without China's former amateur standout Zou Shiming, who laces them up as a professional for the fourth time, on this occasion taking on Yokthong Kokietgym of Thailand in a scheduled eight-round flyweight bout. Kokietgym, it is fair to say, has not been brought to China to upend the Zou apple cart; the intrigue in this contest will be in seeing if Zou continues the improvement he showed in his last appearance, on the Pacquiao-Rios undercard.

Although he won his first two professional fights, he did not look like a fighter who matched the hype that accompanied his arrival in the paid ranks after an amateur career that netted medals at three straight Olympics. But against the previously undefeated Juan Tozcano, Zou put the pieces together, throwing fast, straight combinations and rocking -- and seemingly coming close to stopping -- his opponent on several occasions, as a partisan crowd roared its approval. Zou and trainer Freddie Roach will be looking for similar improvement against Kokietgym, as they seek to ride his popularity and progress into a possible world title tilt in the near future.

Undercard Recap: Chinese Hero Shiming Impresses in Third Professional Fight

Photo Credit: Will Hart

Earlier in the week, Zou Shiming’s trainer Freddie Roach sounded less than enthusiastic in his assessment of his fighter’s progress since turning professional. He’s likely to be a lot more satisfied by Zou’s third paid bout, in which the local hero came close to stopping Mexican Juan Toscano, especially in a dominant third round, before settling for a wide, unanimous decision to move to 3-0. Zou bounced on his toes, straightened up his punches, and darted in and out as he raked Toscano with right hands that opened up a nasty gash on his opponent’s cheek, much to the delight of the CotaiArena crowd.

“I’m getting better all the time,” said Zou.  “I went to Manny’s camp, and worked on my lower body strength from my hips on down, so I was able to sit on my punches better.  I really think I’m getting better.”

Zou Flies Banner for Chinese Boxing

by Kieran Mulvaney


Zou Shiming is not, it seems, afraid to test himself.

Trainer Freddie Roach recalls that, shortly arriving for training at the Wild Card Gym, the three-time Olympian asked to spar with eight-time world champion Manny Pacquiao.

"I said, 'Are you sure? He said 'Yeah,'" Roach told reporters this week in Macau, where Zou 's third professional contest will be on the undercard of Pacquiao's clash with Brandon Rios.

"I went over to Manny and I said 'Manny, Shiming wants to box with you,'" the trainer continued. "And Manny looked at me and I said 'No, he didn't mean it in a bad way, he just wants to see what it's like to box with Manny Pacquiao.' He says, 'Maybe I'm a little bit too big for him' and I say 'Yeah, maybe you are, but just box.' Two days later they boxed four rounds together, and it was a great experience for Shiming. He got hit by one really good shot, a body shot by Manny, and he felt it and grunted a little bit. There was no knockdown and he did okay. He did good. A lot of people said 'You're crazy, if he gets knocked out you're going to get fired.'"

Zou won a light-flyweight bronze in the 2004 Athens Games, and then gold in his hometown Beijing Olympics in 2008. He successfully defended that crown in London last year, and is as a consequence by some distance the most successful Chinese boxer to date. The extent to which his fame has captivated this nation is illustrated by an art exhibit at the Venetian Macao, where Saturday night's card is taking place, in which Macanese boxer-turned-artist Jet Wu has portrayed the life of the "King of Boxing" in some surrealist watercolors as well as a graphic novel, the draft pages of which are displayed on the exhibit's walls.

A long amateur pedigree can sometimes lay the foundations for professional success (see, most recently, the example of Gennady Golovkin), but the disciplines can be surprisingly different and the transition can sometimes take time. Roach suspects the latter is proving the case with Zou, despite a promising start sparring former three-time world champion Brian Viloria.

"I thought it was going to happen really quick with Shiming because his first sparring partner in America was Brian Viloria that I thought 'For sure this kid's going to be champion in, like, a month' – he was doing that well," Roach explained. "He has Brian Viloria's number for some reason and then in the first fight he reverted back to his amateur style a little bit too much, I thought. In the second fight he thought that I wanted him to be more of a banger and I think our gameplan got lost in translation a little bit. He stayed in the pocket way too long and got hit way too much in that fight. Because I want him to sit down and score with a couple of good combinations and get under and get out with his speed, but he just stayed in the pocket a bit too long. So now we're trying to work the middle a little bit, be aggressive but not too aggressive, you know?"

Roach, the definition of old school, get-off-my-lawned that perhaps Zou's progress was being hindered by achieving a financial comfort level too soon.

"I don't like to spoil people and I think they might be spoiling him a little bit," he said. "He might be making a little bit too much too early. It might be making him a bit soft or softer, because my first ten-round fight was for $1,000 and I thought I was rich, but that was a long time ago."

Zou in contrast will earn $500,000 for his outing on Saturday night – a pretty hefty sum for a man with two pro bouts under his belt. But promoter Bob Arum makes no apologies for the fee he's forking over.

"If anyone on this card deserves their purse, it's him," he said in the media room this week.

The reasons for that are manifold and the kitsch in the hotel is merely the most obvious manifestation of them. There is only one boxer who, by Sunday, will have fought three times as a professional on internationally-televised cards from Macau, after all, and it isn't Manny Pacquiao. Arturo Gatti and Ricky Hatton weren't the greatest boxers known to man, although they were plenty good; but the fact that they weren't the best didn't stop their fans turning out in droves time after time. Those fans loved their fighters' styles and personalities; similarly Zou's amateur success and easy-going manner has struck a chord in the Middle Kingdom.

If big-time boxing gains a foothold on this Chinese peninsula – or indeed, elsewhere in what is potentially by far the largest market on Earth – it will have a lot to do with Manny Pacquiao. It will have more to do with Bob Arum. But most of all, it will be because of Zou Shiming.

Weigh-In: Wait is Almost Over as Pacquiao, Rios Make Weight

by Kieran Mulvaney

[Click for Slideshow] Manny Pacquiao (left), Brandon Rios (right) - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Eight o'clock in the morning is really too early to be watching (mostly) skinny young men stand on bathroom scales in their underwear, and judging from the slightly muted atmosphere in the Venetian Macao’s Cotai Arena, fighters and fans alike felt the same way. There were hundreds, rather than thousands, for the official weigh-in, staged early in Macau in order to stream live on Friday evening in the United States, but there was no doubt about the allegiance of those who did show up, even if few of them had had the opportunity to caffeinate sufficiently before whooping and hollering for their man.

Not that Brandon Rios cared about the boos from the Filipino contingent, cupping his hands to one ear and then the other, beaming, and making a “Look at me, this is what it’s going to look like when I put a title belt around my waist” motion. That waist, by the way, appeared a little bit more expansive than Manny Pacquiao’s; but then Rios has never possessed the most svelte of physiques. By his standards, though, he looked fighting trim, and actually weighed in one half pound under the 147 lb. welterweight limit.

Pacquiao, as always, looked in perfect shape, and boasted his characteristic beatific smile, soaking up the cheering, struggling as ever to keep from grinning during the face-off with Rios, and then departing the stage – perhaps, like the writers who grumbled about being forced to work so early, to take a nap.

It has been a long and slightly strange week, but now suddenly the end is near. The epithets, the insults, the kicks, the complaints: all are in the past. Pacquiao doesn’t have to see Rios, or vice-versa, for another 26 hours, and the next time they are in each other’s presence will be the only time that matters. The bell will ring, the fight will be on, and the truth will be just around the corner.

Undercard Overview: A Mix of Weights, Nationalities and Stories

by Nat Gottlieb

Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

The undercard features four intriguing bouts, headlined by a featherweight championship rematch between dethroned title-holder Billy Dib and "The Russian Mexican" Evgeny Gradovich who won their first match back in March. Also sure to draw a lot of interest is an unusual clash of heavyweight prospects, Andy Ruiz Jr. and Tor Hamer. Ruiz, who looks more like a sumo wrestler than a boxer, belies his rotund appearance with a pair of the fastest hands in the heavyweight division and a skill set not usually seen in bigger men. Challenging him will be Hamer, whose back-story is a rarity in the gritty world of boxing: son of a Harvard-educated father and a mother with a degree from Villanova, Hamer himself has a BA from Penn State. A Village Voice piece on Hamer once carried the headline: "The Gentleman Boxer."

Also on the card is the much-anticipated third career fight for the Chinese double Olympic gold medalist, Zou Shiming, a national icon whose first two fights in Macau were watched by a staggering 200 million viewers in China. His opponent will be a little known Mexican flyweight, who has won all four of his professional fights. The other televised bout features unbeaten, former Puerto Rican Olympian, Felix Verdejo, taking on a Thai boxer distinguished most by having perhaps the longest name in all of sports, Petchsamuthr Duanaaymukdahan.

Evgeny Gradovich vs. Billy Dibs

Gradovich (17-0, 8 KOs) is a pupil of the hottest young trainer in boxing, last year's "Trainer of the Year" Robert Garcia, who also conditions Rios, Mikey Garcia, and Nonito Donaire among others. Befitting his nickname, the Russian-born Gradovich's style is a hybrid of European and Mexican. Last March, Gradovich took a fight on short notice against then-champion Dib and won a controversial split decision by outworking the Australian with his high-volume, aggressive head and body work. Although Dib's corner thought he had won the fight, the CompuBox stats backed up the judges: Gradovich landed 292 total punches to Dib's 228.

If Dib (36-2, 21 KOs) was looking for an excuse in that loss, he might have had one. The Australian suffered a slight concussion and cuts to both his scalp and above one eye. His scalp wound later required 10 staples, while the other cut took 14 stitches. After the fight, Dibs said, "I got sucked into a toe-to-toe brawl with him and I didn't make the right adjustments. I fought with all heart and no brains." Gradovich's high intensity style is crowd pleasing, but he only has eight knockouts in 17 fights and will need to gain more punching power if he is to become a true fan favorite.

Andy Ruiz Jr. vs Tor Hamer

Ruiz Jr (left) and Hamer (right) - Credit: Chris Farina, Top Rank

Ruiz (20-0, 14 KOs) defies easy description. When he walks into the ring, he looks like the "before" side of a weight loss commercial. And then he lets his hands fly. Incredibly, the giant Mexican has the hand speed of a top welterweight. A former Mexican Olympian, Ruiz fights behind a very crisp jab that often drives opponents backwards, and always throws four and five-punch combos. Coming forward aggressively, he likes to dig into both sides of the body and the midsection. If you try to grab and hold him, Ruiz will continue to bruise your body with punches until the referee steps in. Despite his physical appearance, Ruiz is a genuine, bona fide heavyweight contender.

The same can't be said yet for Hamer (21-2, 14 KOs), a fighter with a sculpted body. Before he can be considered a legitimate contender, Hamer will need to beat someone like Ruiz. The only time Hamer faced a top-notch opponent was last year, when he was vastly overmatched against Vyacheslay Glazkov, a former Olympic bronze medalist from the hotbed of heavyweights, the Ukraine. After taking an early beating from Glazkov, Hamer retired on his stool after the fourth round. His best chance to beat Ruiz is to test his chin with his power.

Zou Shiming vs. Juan Tuscano

Zou Shiming - Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Shiming (2-0), the diminutive flyweight and national hero, will be trying to demonstrate continued growth as a professional under the tutelage of his Hall-of-Fame trainer Freddie Roach. In his first fight last April in Macau, Shiming admitted to being flustered by the large, partisan crowd that was rooting for him to score a knockout. Feeling uncomfortable in the ring, Shiming reverted to his amateur style of fighting. When he returned to the ring in July, however, he started to look like a real pro. Fighting more like an aggressive Mexican than a Chinese amateur, he kept firing hard shots upstairs and downstairs. Even more telling was the adjustment he made in the way he threw his punches. In his debut, he did a lot of slapping with wide, looping shots. In July, his punches were short, compact, and crisp. He will be facing the Juan Toscano (4-0, 1 KO), who appears to be a designated body for Shiming. But with young fighters from Mexico, you never know when they might have a breakout fight.

Felix Verdejo vs. Petchsamuthr Duanaaymukdahan

Felix Verdejo - Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

The other bout, a junior lightweight contest, features the hard-hitting young Puerto Rican prospect, Verdejo, who has an 8-0 record with six knockouts. Virtually nothing is known about his opponent, Duanaaymukdahan (8-1, 1 KO), whose fights have all been in Thailand, the land of boxing secrets. With Verdejo's vast Olympic experience from the London Games, he figures to make light work of the Thai fighter. But again, since nothing is known about him by fans in the Western world, the Thai might very well be a closeted assassin.

Zou Shiming Puts On a Show, Stays Unbeaten

by Nat Gottlieb

Brandon Rios, Zou Shiming - Photo: Chris Farina

If you took away all the hype, glitz, and glamour of the fabulously over-the-top Macau casino, and the 300 million people watching on free Chinese TV and HBO, what you would have left in Saturday night’s headline fight was a rare phenomenon in boxing: a 112-pound flyweight who could demand extraordinary attention.

The object of all this affection was a two-time Olympic gold medalist from China, Zou Shiming, who turned pro just this past April at the ripe old age of 32. But turning pro and fighting like one are two different things.

In his four-round debut in April against a veritable body-to-be-named-later, Shiming readily admits he was so daunted by the raucous 15,000 fans watching in the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Resort, that he sought refuge in an old, comfortable friend: his amateur boxing style.

The result was a lackluster, unanimous victory that disappointed the fans and did nothing to bolster promoter Bob Arum’s grand vision of turning China into his own personal gold mine. “Yes, I reverted to the old Olympic style,” Shiming said recently, “but believe me, I will be better for my second bout. I wasn't used to the environment. I think I was overawed by it all, fighting in front of 15,000 passionate fans.”

Saturday night, he was back in the Cotai. There were just as many rabid fans, the environment was equally as daunting, but this time, Shiming didn’t disappoint the crowd. Although he wasn’t able to knock out his opponent, 19-year-old Jesus Ortega (3-3), in their scheduled six-rounder, the Chinese medalist did thrill his fans by abandoning his stick-and-move amateur style and going toe-to-toe in what proved to be a pleasing, exciting fight. All three judges scored it 59-54 in favor of Shiming.

Right from the start, Shiming showed the signs of being trained by Hall of Famer, Freddie Roach. He actually looked more like a Mexican fighter than a Chinese one. Not only did he stand toe-to-toe, but he was firing hard body shots, working upstairs and downstairs, and using a picture-perfect uppercut, certainly a new wrinkle to his arsenal. His punches, unlike in his debut, were short, compact, and crisp. He was also showing the ability to throw counter punches. Not surprisingly, every punch the Chinese Olympian landed with any authority drew roars from the highly-partisan crowd.

The cost Shiming paid for standing in the pocket was that he was taking more shots to the head and body than he probably ever had as an amateur. But Shiming didn’t seem fazed by the young Mexican’s shots. He kept coming and firing combos with the high-hand speed that made him a great Olympian. That being said, not a single blow by the Chinese fighter appeared to have much effect on the Mexican, either. One had to wonder whether Shiming’s chin could have withstood the shots he was taking from an experienced and harder-hitting pro, but it is far too early to assess the Chinese fighter’s whiskers.

In the fourth round, Shiming landed a huge right hand, and although the Mexican didn’t seem fazed by it, the crowd raised the roar several decibels, encouraging the Chinese fighter to go all-out for the knockout. But after a ferocious assault for nearly 30 seconds, Shiming wisely realized he wasn’t going to get the knockout, and toned down his attack.

In the fifth round, Shiming began to show the effects of throwing far more punches at a faster pace than he had ever thrown in his countless amateur fights. The Olympian began to tire, and looked a bit ragged. For much of the round, he fought with his hands down, a sign not only that was tired, but also an indication he wasn’t particulary worried about the Mexican’s punches hurting him.

By the sixth and final round, Shiming was fighting flat-footed and holding at times to rest. It appeared questionable that he could have fought four or six more rounds at this pace, but Roach, who undoubtedly was not too thrilled with his fighter standing toe-to-toe in a hyper-aggressive fashion, will surely tone down his boxer’s aggression and pace a notch or two in future bouts.

While Shiming (2-0) remains a work in progress, after this fight it can be said that he’s now officially a pro boxer. His next fight will be back in Macau on Nov. 23 on the undercard of a Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios slugfest on pay-per-view TV.

In the co-feature, flyweight champion, Juan Francisco Estrada (26-2, 18 KOs), made the first defense of the title he won in an upset of Brian Viloria in April, by scoring a unanimous 12-round decision by a wide margin over previously unbeaten Filipino, Milan Melindo (29-1, 12 KOs). Melindo managed to keep the early rounds competitive, but the Mexican gradually began to dominate the later rounds, punctuated by his knockdown of the Filipino in the 11th.   Although Melindo was competitive throughout the fight, the scorecards didn’t seem to reflect this, 117-109 and 118-109 twice.

The opening event on the HBO card featured undefeated lightweight champion, Evgeny Gradovich (17-0, 8 KOs), fighting against an outclassed Argentinean, Mauricio Munoz (24-4, 12 KOs). Gradovich is a stablemate of Rios and is also trained by Robert Garcia, last year’s Trainer of the Year. The super-aggressive Russian Gradovich pounded Munoz at will throughout most of the fight, but was unable to finish him off. The scorecards reflected the one-sided beating, 120-108 and 119-109 twice. Although Gradovich is certainly exciting to watch, with just eight knockouts in 17 fights he’ll have to gain more punching power before will be considered the kind of star who can draw crowds.

 

Shiming's Sophomore Outing Heads Return Ticket to China

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.

Shiming Wins His Pro Debut

by Nat Gottlieb

When Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain in 1492, he was looking for a shorter way to China and India in a quest to bring back spices and gold for the King and Queen of Spain. Some 521 years later, another explorer of sorts has also set his sights on China, but this time in quest of a different kind of gold. Gold in the form of a diminutive boxer from China, Zu Shiming, the country’s only Olympic boxing gold medalist and a certified national rock star.

Octogenarian promoter, Bob Arum, still one of the great innovators in the boxing world, trotted out his glittering treasure Saturday in Macau. Shiming, all 112 pounds of him, won a unanimous decision as expected, but failed to generate a lot of excitement for the nearly sold-out crowd in the 15,000-seat Cotai Arena, not to mention a staggering audience of reportedly close to 300 million in China that was watching their legendary fighter on free television. Only in the crazy world of boxing could all this pizzazz have been generated by a 31-year-old flyweight making his four-round professional debut!

Read the Complete Shiming vs. Valenzuela Fight Recap on HBO.com.

Four Questions From Macau

by Kieran Mulvaney

Almost by definition, HBO Boxing is constantly on the road, broadcasting one week from Las Vegas, the following weekend from Dallas, the Saturday after that from Atlantic City. Over the next several weeks, though, it is visiting locations rarely if ever touched on before.

On April 27, HBO World Championship Boxing comes from Buenos Aires, Argentina when Sergio Martinez defends his middleweight title against Martin Murray. Two weeks before that, Jim Lampley and colleagues will be calling the action when Nonito Donaire clashes with Guillermo Rigondeaux in New York City: in itself, hardly a novel location, but the venue, Radio City Music Hall, has only once before hosted a professional prizefight, when Roy Jones Jr. walked to the ring with the Rockettes before dominating David Telesco in 2000.

Before all that happens, though, a true precedent will be set – and one with potential ramifications for the future – when HBO2 airs a Saturday afternoon card from Macau, China. The card, which is headlined by the professional debut of China’s own Olympic boxing sensation Zou Shiming, raises plenty of questions, both inside and outside the ring:

 

Will Shiming Be Shining?

Junior flyweight Shiming is something of an amateur superstar, having medaled at three consecutive Olympics, including gold medals in Beijing in 2008 and London last year. He’s clearly accomplished, but at age 31, can the junior flyweight make a successful transition to the professional ranks? There is some precedent in the form of Rigondeaux, who was just shy of 29 when he turned pro but, because of his wealth of in-ring experience, was challenging for a title belt in just his seventh outing.

However good Shiming may or may not be, it’s unlikely we’ll learn much from his pro debut against Eleazar Valenzuela, who enters the ring with a record of 2-1-2. But, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com, that doesn’t matter one bit.

“Any time you have a fighter making a pro debut, the goal is to make him look good,” says Rafael. “The idea is he’s going to put on a show for his people. Potentially, it could have an audience of millions over there.” 

Read the Complete Zou Shiming vs. Eleazar Valenzuela Fight Overview on HBO.com