by Ronnie Nathanielsz
As previously reported on BoxingScene.com, Denver Cuello, who was fighting with one hand most of the way lost in his gallant bid to wrest the WBC minimumweight title from Chinese champion Xiong Zhao Zhong at the World Trade Center in Dubai on Friday.
The start of the fight card was pushed back by one hour after KO Promotions issued a statement which it later pulled, stating that the fight had been called off but gave no reasons.
BoxingScene/Manila Standard learned from its contacts in Dubai that the cancellation was reportedly caused by financial problems facing the promoters but that a wealthy Chinese backer stepped up to provide financing so the title fight could push through. In fact when Team Cuello, headed by manager/trainer Aljoe Jaro entered the venue, it was reportedly not even ready.
Cuello’s injury to his right shoulder which plagued the hard-hitting southpaw in his last two fights recurred just as the fight started and despite frantic efforts of Aljoe Jaro to reset the shoulder into place several times in-between rounds it bothered Cuello all throughout the fight.
The devastating puncher nailed Zhong with a crunching left hand flush on the jaw in the opening round and dropped him but the well-conditioned Zhong recovered well and was never again in any serious trouble.
Under the WBC system where the scores are announced at the end of the first four rounds, Cuello was leading on the scorecards of all three comparatively unknown judges, but the tide turned through rounds 5 to 9 with Zhong capitalizing on Cuello’s inability to use his right hand and a nasty gash on his right eye caused by an accidental clash of heads which TV replays showed was actually initiated by the Filipino although under WBC rules Zhong was penalized a point since Cuello was the fighter who bled from the clash of heads.
A desperate Cuello, sensing the title for which he had waited for more than two years was slipping from his grasp, came fighting back using his vaunted left in rounds ten and eleven while also leaning forward with his head to try and blunt the offense of Zhong who was less than five feet in height, incurring cautions from referee Hector Aful of Panama.
But the champion chased a virtually crippled challenger in the last round and although Zhong didn’t connect with any telling punches he earned the nod of two of the three judges to retain the title he won in a battle with Mexico’s Javier Martinez Resendiz in Zhong’s hometown of Kunming, China last November.
In an overseas telephone conversation with BoxingScene/Manila Standard from Dubai, Aljoe Jaro said he thought - with the first round knockdown and the one point deduction against Zhong for the accidental clash of heads, it was enough for Cuello to win the title but said “we accept the decision.”
Judges Roman Denison of Panama and Sergio Izonso of Italy scored the fight for Zhong while Britain’s John King had it even, resulting in the split decision in favor of Zhong who was making his first title defense.
Jaro told us he believes Cuello dominated rounds 1-4 while he conceded that the champion Zhong won rounds 5-9 and that Cuello won rounds 10 and 11 and Zhong took the last round.
Aljoe Jaro also claimed that the ring doctor wanted to stop the fight on two occasions because of the blood streaming down from the cut on Cuello’s right eye but that referee Afu ignored the doctor’s recommendation and ordered the fighters to continue.