By Jake Donovan
DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS POINT IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO LEARN RESULTS OF HBO2 BOXING TELECAST, WHICH AIRS VIA SAME-DAY TAPE DELAY SATURDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNITED STATES.
By his own admission, Zou Shiming wanted nothing more than to deliver a knockout ending to his adoring fans. The two-time Olympic Gold medalist reached that goal, stopping Thailand's Yokthong Kokeitgym in the 7th round of their headlining bout Saturday evening at the Cotai Arena in Macao, China.
The result was badly needed after the evening's preceding bout sucked the energy out of the arena (more on that in the undercard recap). Shiming was a one-man resuscitator, employing a more aggressive approach than had been the case in his first three fights as a pro.
"After the first couple of fights, especially after my last night, I went home and reviewed what I was doing," Shiming said in reliving the knockout and why it has taken four fights to score one. :I was rushing my shots in my previous fights, but was patient this time around and the knockdown came."
Against Kokeitgym, the opportunity existed to build a foundation to eventually lead to the highlight reel ending. Shiming was consistent in his attack, breaking down the visiting Thai without wasting any of his punches or energy.
The pattern held true for several rounds, suggesting that the fourth decision win in as many fights was upon us. That changed in a flash in round seven, when a subtle left hook on the inside produced the first professional knockdown of Shiming's career.
Kokeitgym fell to a knee as he took an eight count in hopes of clearing his head and being able to continue. He managed to beat the count, but Shiming quickly beat the fight out of him. An ensuing flurry sent Kokeitgym - now 15-4-2 (11KO) - to the canvas for the second time, with the referee immediately signalling the end without issuing a count.
The official time was 2:09 of round seven.
Shiming enjoys the first early night of his career, coming in his first-scheduled eight round affair as he improves to 4-0 (1KO). His previous two bouts resulted in six-round decisions following his four-round pro debut last April.
How badly did he want Saturday's bout to not go to the scorecards?
"As much as I wanted a championship," Shiming insisted afterward to HBO2's Larry Merchant. "On the road to the championship, every opponent is a road block."
Despite just four pro fights to his name, a championship bout is targeted for the not-too-distant future for Shiming. The fast-tracking strategy makes sense; Shiming is one of the most successful fighters in the history of amateur boxing, with three Olympic medals including back-to-back gold medals in 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London).
Given his amateur pedigree and the fact that he's already approaching his 33rd birthday, it's clear that his Hall-of-Fame team of promoter Bob Arum and trainer Freddie Roach believe there's no time like the present to make his mark in the pro ranks.
"I see dedication. I see hard work," Arum commented on Shiming's progress to this point and why a title shot is already being sought. "He's worked very hard. Freddie is a great teacher. I see him becoming a consummate professional and I look for him to have the same pro success as he's had in the amatuer ranks."
Miguel Vazquez returned to the ring following a 14-month forced layoff, to score a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten challenger Denis Shafikov.
Scores were 115-113, 116-112 an 119-110 in a lightweight title fight that completely sucked the air out of a venue that was treated to a lively undercard to that point.
The fight was typical of any given showing by Vazquez, which is to say it was loaded with clinching, headbutts and lots of other matters that don't quite reflect actual fighting. Shafikov attempted to make a fight of it, but constantly saw his rhythm disrupted by a combination of sound defense and frequent holding from the defending titlist.
Anxious moments arose in round three, when Vazquez suffered a cut over his left eye. His corner immediately went to work on the wound, disallowing it from ever becoming a factor.
The same could not be said for Shafikov, perhaps an indictment on a corner more intent on lighting into the referee than in taking care of their own fighter. Shafikov suffered a gusher over his right eye in round seven due to several clash of heads, a point raised by veteran cut man Miguel Diaz who repeatedly gave the third man an earful.
In fairness, referee Ernie Sharif is held largely responsible for allowing the fight to become what it was. The official warned both fighters for holding, but never truly seized control of the fight, other than in his exchanges with Diaz including repeated offers to usher him out of ring prior to the start of three consecutive rounds late in the fight.
Action slowed to a crawl by the championship rounds, as the general consensus was simply waiting for the fight to mercifully run its course. The threat of a knockout never surfaced, nor were there any official knockdowns although both fighters found themselves on the canvas due to tipping over from aggressive clinching.
Vazquez racks up his sixth title defense as he improves to 34-3 (13KO). His only losses have come earlier in his career, dropping a competitive 10-round bout to Tim Bradley when both were prospects and dropping a pair of decisions to Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez. The first loss came in his pro debut in Jan. '06, the latter taking place more than two years later while Alvarez was still on the rise.
The moral of the story is that it's going to take an exceptional talent to beat Vazquez. Shafikov didn't prove to be that fighter. The Russian southpaw suffers his first loss as he falls to 33-1-1 (18KO).
Egor Mekhontsev moves to 2-0 (2KO) after scoring a 2nd round knockout of Atthaporn Jaritram in what will serve as the televised opener of the HBO2 broadcast, which airs later in the day via same-day tape delay.
The bout was sold as a matchup of unbeaten light heavyweights, but never intended to be a competitve fight on paper nor was it in reality. Mekhontsev, a Gold medalist for his native Russia in the 2012 London Games, fought with knockout intentions from the opening bell and achieved that result in round two, sending Jaritram to the canvas twice before forcing the stoppage.
Mekhontev, who turned pro on the undercard of Guillermo Rigondeaux' 12-round shutout snoozer over Joseph Agbeko last December, is managed by Vadim Kornilov, best known these days as the guiding force behind 140 lb. titltist Ruslan Provodnikov.
Highlighting the non-televised undercard, Marvin Sonsona scored a sensational one-punch knockout of Akifumi Shimoda in the third round of their featherweight bout.
A full recap of the non-televised undercard - which streamed live on TopRank.com - can be found by clicking ----> HERE
HBO2 PORTION (SAME-DAY TAPE DELAY)
Zou Shiming KO7 (2:09) Yokthong Kokietgym - flyweights
Miguel Vazquez UD12 Denis Shafikov - lightweights
Egor Mekhontsev KO2 Atthaporn Jaritram - light heavyweights
Akifumi Shimoda Lost KO3 Marvin Sonsona - 12 rounds, featherweight
Rex Tso TKO8 (1:27) Mako Matsuyama - super flyweights
Jerwin Ancajas KO2 Inthanon Sithchamuang - super flyweights
Ryota Murata KO4 (0:43) Carlos Nascimento - middleweights
Harmonito Dela Torre KO1 (2:17) Yakobus Heluka - super featherweight
Kuok Kun Ng KO3 Rocky Alap Alap - super welterweights
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox