By Jake Donovan
Amnat Ruenroeng hopes to pick up where he left off following a fantastic 2014 ring campaign, while Zou Shiming looks to become just the second fighter ever from China to claim a major title. Photos by Chris Farina/Top Rank.
Both fighters did their part to make their title fight official, as the pair of flyweights made weight for their headliner Saturday evening at Cotai Arena in Macau, China.
Ruenroeng (14-0, 5KOs) checked in right at the 112 lb. divisional limit for the third defense of his crown. Shiming weighed in at 111.6 lbs. for his first shot at a major title after less than two full years in the pro ranks.
The bout marks a rare occasion where two fighters with a combined 20 pro fights between them enter in a major title fight. Ruenroeng claimed the belt in just his 12th pro fight, scoring a decision win over Rocky Fuentes a little more than a year ago.
His first title defense is what forced the boxing world to stand up and recognize that the unbeaten Thai boxer was for real. A road trip to hostile territory in Japan saw Ruenroeng become the first - and only, to date - to hang a loss on the equally precocious Kazuto Ioka, settling for a split decision in an otherwise big win last May in Japan.
Ruenroeng closed out his stellar year with a narrow win over McWilliams Arroyo, climbing off the canvas to turn back his mandatory challenger in a nip-and-tuck affair last September.
Shiming (6-0, 1KO) has made history for mighty China from the moment he took an interest in boxing. The nation's most accomplished amateur boxer ever, Shiming is its only fighter to claim medals in three separate Olympic competitions (2004, 2008, 2012), the first from China to capture Olympic Gold - first accomplishing the feat at home during the 2008 Beijing Olympics - and its only fighter to earn two Gold medals, repeating the feat during the 2012 London Olympics.
His pro debut coincided with Top Rank's inaugural show at The Venetian Macao, with Saturday's bout marking his seventh appearance in as may pro fights at the resort location often described as "Las Vegas on steroids."
Saturday's title fight is actually separate from the one for which he became mandatory challenger. A 12-round points win over Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym - best remembered as a "mini-Manny Pacquiao" - last November (on the undercard of Pacquiao's 12-round shutout over Chris Algieri) was to land him a mandatory shot at unified titlist Juan Estrada. Handlers for both fighters wisely opted to move in separate directions, allowing Shiming to pursue a shot at Ruenroeng who - despite his banner year in 2014 - is still regarded as the least experienced of the division's reigning champs (Roman Gonzalez is the World lineal flyweight champion).
Of course, none of that means Shiming will bring a flyweight belt home, but that his handlers are - in their minds - giving their fighter his best possible shot at a major belt.
The bout will air via same-day tape delay on HBO2 in the United States. The undercard will stream live on TopRank.tv.
In the televised co-feature, Glen Tapia (22-1, 14KOs) seeks his third straight win as he faces serviceable journeyman Daniel Dawson in a 10-round junior middleweight bout. Tapia came in at the division limit of 154 lbs, while Dawson was a shade lighter at 153.4 lbs.
Amnat Ruenroeng, 112 lbs vs. Zou Shiming, 111.6 lbs - 12 rds., flyweight
Glen Tapia, 154 lbs vs. Daniel Dawson, 153.4 lbs - 10 rds., junior middleweight
Patomsuk Pathompothong, 139.6 lbs vs. Ik Yang, 140 lbs - 12 rds., junior welterweight
Michael Enriquez, 114.2 lbs vs. Rex Tso,. 114.4 lbs - 10 rds., junior bantamweight
Chingchai Kiatpracha, 151 lbs vs. Kuok Kun Ng, 155.3 lbs - 6 rds., junior middleweight
Raymond Sermona vs. Jose Felix Jr. - 8 rds., lightweight
Paul Valenzuela, 166 lbs vs. Zhou Yunfei, 165 lbs - 4/6 rds., super middleweight
Ismael Garnica, 117 lbs vs. Aston Palicte, 116 lbs - 10 rounds, junior bantamweight
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox