By Nat Gottlieb
It seems fitting that Zou Shiming has fought all five of his fights in a casino. After all, everybody knows the house always wins.
Shiming, the two-time Olympic gold medal winner from China, is as close as you can get to a “sure thing” at this point in his career. That’s because his promoter, Top Rank, so far hasn’t gambled much with its Asian-market golden boy. Although Shiming’s opponents have gradually gotten better, none so far were expected to present much of a risk to him. That included Saturday’s opponent, Luis De La Rosa (23-4-1, 13 KOs), a Colombian fighter so obscure that BoxRec doesn’t even list his age, height, or reach.
But De La Rosa proved to be a lot more than just another designated notch on Shiming’s belt. Fighting out of a tight defense, with gloves high by his head and elbows tucked in, De La Rosa didn’t present much of a target for Shiming to hit. In fact, the aggressive Colombian flyweight’s fast hands hit Shiming more than had been tagged in his previous four professional fights.
De La Rosa, despite absorbing an accidental head butt in the 5th round that opened up a constantly bleeding cut over his left eye, took Shiming the distance in the Chinese boxer’s first 10-round fight. The Colombian certainly got in his shots, but it was clear from the start that Shiming’s superior boxing skills were winning virtually every round.
The decision was never in doubt. The judges’ scorecards at the Venetian Macao’s Cotai Arena were unanimous for Shiming: 99-91 twice, and 97-93.
Shiming’s strategy was obvious from the start. Working behind a crisp jab, the 5-foot-5 Shiming would pop in, fire a sharp two-punch combo, then pop out, using good body and head movement to avoid a counter-punch. Shiming landed several clean shots in virtually every round, but they didn’t seem to have much effect on the Colombian, nor did they deter him from repeatedly coming forward and setting the pace.
Shiming, working with elite American trainer, Freddie Roach, looked like a much more professional boxer than we had seen in his first four fights. But despite the fact Roach had said he worked hard with the Chinese fighter to set down more on his punches, there remains a question about just how much power his fighter has. Especially after Shiming landed many solid punches that didn’t appear to have much effect on his opponent. Can that be excused by the Colombian having an exceptional chin? Judging by De La Rosa’s record, you’d have to say no. In his three prior losses, De La Rosa was knocked out twice.
On the flip side, it would appear that Shiming himself has a good chin, something that bodes well for future fights when he steps up in class. With his defense lapsing at times, Shiming got tagged in the head several times by the Colombian, but never looked any worse for wear. Except for a slightly swollen right jaw near the end, Shiming didn’t have a mark on him.
Fans of the Chinese icon flocked to the casino to cheer him on, and other than failing to knock out De La Rosa, he didn’t disappoint them. It was a very good action fight, thanks in no small part to De La Rosa’s game spirit and heart. Simply put: The Shiming fans came for a show, and they got one. It could only have been encouraging to them that despite having the decision in hand entering the 10th round, Shiming didn’t play it safe. He went toe-to-toe with the Colombian in what was probably the best round of the fight.
There was some talk before this bout that Shiming’s next fight would be for a world flyweight title. But based on this one, it doesn’t appear he’s ready yet to step in the ring with the top guns in the division. Considering Shiming has only had five pro fights, that’s understandable. The key question going forward will be how much power Roach can put into Shiming’s punches. At 33, Shiming doesn’t have as much time left as some younger fighting prospects. If nothing else, however, Roach has helped Shiming learn quickly to switch to a more professional style. But at this point in time, Shiming remains a talented work in progress.
In the co-feature, Mexico’s hottest prospect, super middleweight Gilberto Ramirez, continued to make a strong impression. It took Ramirez (29-0, 23 KOs) only about two minutes in the first round to annihilate Junior Talipeau (20-2-2, 7 KOs). The 23-year-old Ramirez knocked Talipeau down three times in the round and had rendered his opponent defenseless before the ref stopped the fight. Although the bout was short and sweet, the blistering attack of Ramirez will only enhance his credentials as a brutal, entertaining, knockout artist, and perhaps the next great Mexican champion.