By James Goyder
Fists of Gold II took place at the Cotai Arena in Macau tonight with seven fights on a Top Rank card which effectively served as a warm up for Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios battle which is set for the same venue on November 23rd.
The event was headlined by Zou Shiming’s second fight as a fully fledged professional which was far more entertaining than his first although the concern for the people who paid him a reported 500,000 USD will be that a bout against a hand picked opponent turned out to be both close and competitive.
Jesus Ortega held his ground and never looked intimidated by the Chinese superstar in the making which made for some thrilling exchanges with Shiming choosing to go toe to toe with the Mexican rather than employing the hit and run tactics for which he was notorious fo as an amateur.
The Chinese crowd was raucous and the action was relentless. Shiming didn’t have the punching power to ever put Ortega in danger of being stopped but was extremely aggressive and maintained a high punch output throughout the six round affair.
With a minute to go the two fighters exchanged wild punches which were greeted with a roar from the Chinese fans in attendance and earned Shiming plaudits for not employing a safety first points orientated strategy.
The scorecards read 59-55 in favour of the Chinese fighter on all three judges scorecards and Shiming’s November 23rd return will be eagerly anticipated in a region where he is rapidly becoming a fan favourite.
Speaking after the fight Shiming was his normal understated self saying that,
“I’m pleased with the win but my goal is to become a new champion and I know there are many new challenges I need to face but I will work even harder towards that goal.”
His coach Freddi Roach was a little more emphatic in praise of his protégées second professional outing and believes that he showed significant signs of improvement,
“He did a lot better than the last time out, it’s his second pro fight and I’m very proud of him. Everything has to come a quicker (because) he is a two time gold medalist and everyone knows that, it’s difficult to find 112 lbers who want to fight him.”
The Hall of Fame trainer did have some criticism and is looking forward to working with Shiming in Philippines in preparation for his third professional fight on November 23th,
“He stayed in front of him a little too much I would have liked to see him land combinations and get out of the pocked but the training camp with Manny Pacquiao will be a big lesson to Shiming, he’s going to see what it takes to be a world champion when he’s in camp with us,” he said
The co-main event featured Juan Francisco Estrada who caused a major upset by beating Brian Viloria at the inaugural ‘Fists of Gold’ show and found himself making the first defence of the titles he won that night against undefeated Filipino Milan Melindo.
Melindo took to the task methodically, and the early rounds were all close and competitive but he seemed to be getting the better of them with Estrada extremely conservative in his punch output. The turning point seemingly arrived in the 11th when the Filipino was put down for the count by a short cross which connected clean.
Estrada came on very strong in the final stanza and very nearly scored another knockdown when Melindo’s knee appeared to come close to touching the canvas. The Mexican finished the round in dominant fashion with his opponent visibly hurt but still bobbing and weaving enough to stay out of trouble until the bell.
Although Melindo took a long time to recover after the fight had finished, his early superiority made for some suspense as the scorecards were being compiled. In the end none of the judges were impressed by his good work in the first half of the fight with the cards reading 118-109, 117-109 and 118-109 in favour of the defending champion who retains his WBO flyweight and WBA Super World flyweight belts.
Billed as ‘The Russian Mexican’ Evgeny Gradovich inflicted a one sided beatdown on Mauricio Munoz who was dominated from start to finish and had no answer for the relentless combinations of his tireless opponent, who trains alongside Brandon Rios under Robert Garcia.
By the end of the fight Munoz’s face was bruised and swollen as the Argentinian fought bravely but was comprehensively outclassed by Gradovich, who kept firing away with crisp combinations which more often than not found their target.
The only thing missing for Gradovich was the finish, he was able to drive Munoz back against the ropes a few times but the resilient Argentinian refused to go down. The scorecard reflected the Russian’s superiority as he retained his IBF featherweight belt by margins of 119-109,119-109 and 120,108.
Andy Ruiz Jr. took on Joe Hanks in a battle of undefeated heavyweights with the Mexican American looking the less athletic but landing the harder shots right from the opening bell with a series of overhand rights which left his opponent on slightly wobbly legs.
Hanks couldn’t utilize his superior height and reach and never really established he jab, looking a little out of his depth against the highly rated contender. The fight came to a dramatic conclusion in round four when Ruiz Jr. followed another clubbing right with a perfectly timed left hook which sent his opponent flying across the ring.
Hanks barely beat the count but he clearly hadn’t recovered and was already off balance when Ruiz Jnr put him away with a hard right hand to the body, maintaining his undefeated record and and defending his WBO Intercontinental title.
Unbeaten Filipino Genesis Servania made a fast start against Konosuke Tomiyama, putting the Japanese fighter down with a left hook barely 30 seconds into the fight. Perhaps nervous about fighting outside for the Philippines for the first time in his career, he threw caution to the wind and ended up being put down twice, the first one a flash knockdown but the second a solid shot.
Servania was much more tentative in the second as Tomiyama opened up a cut but in the third round the fighter from Bacolod City rallied and put the challenger down with a left hook-straight right hand combination. The Filipino moved in for the kill but ran out of time as the final bell rang.
Tomiyama continued to have his moments throughout the fight, consistently breaking Servania’s high guard with straight punches but the ALA Gym standout slowly began to control the action as he took a more disciplined approach, peppering his opponents face with a stiff jab.
In the ninth round a flurry of punches from Tomiyama left Servania bleeding and the doctor called off the fight after referee Danrex Tapasadan asked him to take a look at the cut. It was ruled an accidental headbutt and the fight went to the scorecards with Servania retaining his belt by split decision, 87-82, 84-85 and 86-83.
Hong Kong’s Rex Tso got a huge cheer from the crowd in Macau as he looked to extend his undefeated record against seasoned Thai boxer Rusalee Samor. The local favourite had a significant advantage in terms of height and reach which he used to good effect, landing quick combinations to the head and body.
Rusalee kept pressing forward looking to land clubbing overhand rights and was able to get through with the occasional shot although all the quality work was coming from Tso, with the Thai repeatedly warned for clinching.
Rusalee’s refusal to take a backwards step made for some entertaining exchanges but Tso was landing the crisper, cleaner shots so it was something of a surprise to hear a majority decision announced with the Thai judge seeing it as 57-57 and the other two ruling scorecards of 58-56 amd 59-55 in favour of the fighter from Hong Kong.
Dave Penalosa’s Thai opponent, listed as Ngaotawa Sithsaithong, was completely unknown but lasted the best part of three rounds before succumbing to the inevitable and being stopped by the up and coming Filipino contender.