By Alexey Sukachev
Macau, China - Chinese amateur legend and the star of the night Zou Shiming (2-0) continued his progress and also scored his second professional victory over 19-year old Mexican Jesus Ortega (3-2, 2 KOs), though his future prospects at the top level remain very foggy, which surely shouldn't be considered a surprize for a 32-year old flyweight debutant even though he is a two-time Olympic champion.
It's to be noted that Shiming did improve under Freddie Roach's tutelage. With his feet, set firm on the canvas, and his professional stance, which wasn't the case in his debut, Shiming started fastly against the Mexican youngster. Zou was all over Ortega for the first couple of minutes but then Ortega started to fight back. Shiming landed many clean shots but without closing his fist in the glove, it's increasingly hard to deal damage to your opponent. Shiming spent too much energy in the opening stanza, and Ortega took advantage of it in the second. Shiming rallied back in the third, and the Mexican once again came back in the fourth. Ortega wasn't punching hard either but he used holes in Shiming's amateurish defense to land many blows.
A boxing match turned into a pure slugfest in the fifth and continued until the final bell with little mastery. Shiming was punching willingly but Ortega at least gave him fits. At the end, all three judges had it identically: 59-55 - for Zou Shiming. BoxingScene scored it 59-57 - also for the Chinese fighter.
WBO and Super WBA flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada (25-2, 18 KOs) continued his battle for a Fighter of the Year honors, by retaining both of his belts against aggressive and previously undefeated Filipino Milan Melindo with a hard-fought but wide unanimous decision. Melindo (29-1, 12 KOs) loses for the first time in his professional career.
There was no feeling-out process, as both combatants started swinging immediately. Both were reserved a bit at the starters but then things started to heat up. At the beginning of the third miute of the opening stanza, Estrada rocked Melindo a bit with a counter right hand, but the Filipino landed a severe left hook to the whiskers to shake the Mexican fighter seriously in the very end and to take this round. Action freezed a bit in the second, and the champion worked his way back into the fight though Melindo remained cool and dealt some punishment too. WBO #1 and WBA #9 Melindo came back very strong in the third. His punches were well felt by the champion, specifically Milan's left hooks. Estrada did better in the midst of the stanza but Melindo, 25, cruised to a strong finish.
Melindo continued to do a better job in the fourth round. One of his punches almost put unbalanced Estrada down early on, and the challenger was also better after that, though the final exchange was in Estrada's favour. Tempo wasn't high, and both boxers were engaged more in tactical affair than in an intense slugfest. It was also strange to see a shorter fighter from Philippines to deal more damage to the champion than vice versa. It was shown well in the fifth stanza, when Melindo landed a huge left uppercut to rock Estrada as well. The champion tried to outjab Melindo but the Filipino was winning this contest as well. The Mexican wasn't very active with his power punches. He did better with his jab in the sixth and it helped him to possibly grab that round. Plus Melindo was cut over his left eyebrow with one of these crisp jabs.
It was ring generalship that helped Melindo to control the action in the seventh stanza. He didn't do anything special but the champion was nervous, failing to find his rhythm and distance. The Asian fighter wasn't active but he ate almost no punches and his single, well-time blows bothered Estrada. Sensing the fight was in danger, Estrada, 23, began to punch with more conviction in the eighth round. Melindo wasn't ready for the change and couldn't keep up with an increased tempo. The Mexican was also better in the ninth, outworking and outhustling his foe. Melindo kept it close landing some hard shots. The tenth was mostly even, whith both boxers doing little to impress the crowd. However, Estrada did much better in heated exchanges in the last forty seconds.
The bout could very well have been up for grabs (although not in this realm) at the beginning of the championship rounds, but it was Estrada who made a final surge and proved his champion's character and heart. He increased his punch output even more in the eleventh and finally put Melindo down very hard with a monstrous right counter. The Filipino was only saved by the bell. Melindo boxed his heart out in the twelfth round but Estrada was still way bigger, and he rocked the Pinoy with another big right hand and had him practically out on his feet, when the bell saved the challenger from a kayo loss.
Official scores were: 117-109 (Takeshi Shimakawa) and 118-109 (both Zoltan Enyedi and Rafael Ramos) - for the defending champion. BoxingScene had it much closer 115-112 - for Estrada, though the case could be made for the Mexican winning at least a few more of the close rounds.
IBF featherweight champion Evgueny Gradovich (17-0, 8 KOs) remained undefeated and made the first defense of his belt, outboxing determined Argentinean mandatory challenger Mauricio Javier Munoz over twelve hard-fought but mostly one-sided rounds to earn a very wide unanimous decision on all the judges' scorecards.
Both started cautiously but the champion was a bit more consistent, throwing more and landing more in the first. Gradovich, 26, started to connect with better punches in the second round, rocking Munoz briefly with several hard blows. IBF #1 Munoz came back strong in the third, tagging Gradovich with hard body punches and some well-placed power punches. The Mexican Russian ate a big right bomb at the end of the second minute but took it well.
In the fourth, Gradovich slightly changed his tactics, starting to work more on the outside. This startegy proved effective as 27-year old Munoz was hit hard every time he walked in with blistering one-two combinations, based on a crisp left jab and hard right uppercut. Gradovich did better in the fifth as well, though it was much closer. Munoz worked even harder in the sixth round, as both fighters mixed it up in very intense exchanges. Gradovich did better with head shots, though Argentinean landed many vicious left hooks to the body and some uppercuts to follow them up. The pattern was practically the same in the next couple of rounds. Munoz was active, marched forward but El Mexicano Ruso was doing well with his counter punches, forcing Munoz to lose energy without much effect.
Referee Jack Reiss warned the Argentinean corner for dropping to much water to the canvas before the start of the ninth. Gradovich took advantage of the pause, forcing Mauricio to retreat to the ropes and landing big body combos in close quarters. Evgueny then utilized smart lateral movement to avoid a wild swinging opponent. Munoz did better in the tenth, working off his jab pretty well. He also caught Gradovich well with some big counters, although Gradovich still landed more shots.
In big round eleven, Gradovich landed a number of huge bombs, mostly with his left hook, to wobble durable Munoz several times but lacked dynamite in his gloves to finish the Argentinean. Sporting a major swelling over both of his eyes, Munoz was under heavy fire of surprisingly fresh Gradovich in the twelfth and final round but withstood his pressure to survive till the final bell.
Mauricio Javier Munoz (26-4, 12 KOs) earned his shot with a highly controversial split decision over Cuban Luis Franco in the IBF eliminator but this time there was no room for any controversy. Adelaide Byrd had it 120-108 - for Gradovich, and both Michael Ancona and Jerry Jacubco had it 119-109 (as did BoxingScene) for the Russian.
In an important clash between two undefeated heavyweights, WBA #12 and WBO #14 Andy Ruiz Jr. scored a devastating fourth-round TKO over WBO #12 rated Joe Hanks. Ruiz Jr. was better in the first three rounds, though Hanks was giving him fits. Ruiz scored a hard knockdown in the fourth stanza with a classy left hook. His opponent was able to get up but Ruiz exploded with a series of punches, which sent Hanks down and forced referee to call a halt without even issuing a count. Ruiz Jr. is the new WBO I/C heavyweight titleholder and raises his record up to 20-0, with 14 KOs. Hanks suffers his first pro defeat and goes down to 21-1, with 14 KOs. Official time of stoppage was 1:41.