AFTER being made to wait for almost two years, Denver “The Excitement” Cuello will finally get the chance to etch his name in the record books when he squares off with World Boxing Council (WBC) minimumweight (105 pounds) champion Xiong Zhao Zhong of China on June 28 at the World Trade Centre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
You can say that that Cuello is itching to give Zhong a sampling of his howitzer left punch after being forced to wait this long for his title shot. Cuello, 33-4 with 21 knockouts, has been the WBC’s No.1 ranked contender in the 105-pound division for some time now but for obvious reasons he has been avoided like a deadly virus by the champions in the weight class. Cuello was a lock to contend for the title in the early part of 2012, but then WBC titlist Kazuto Ioka of Japan wanted no part of the Filipino and decided to give up the crown and move to a heavier weight division in July. Given the fact that Cuello was already the mandatory challenger at the time, he should have been paired with the No.2 contender for the throne vacated by Ioka. Cuello’s title shot, however, was scuttled when WBC President Jose Sulaiman convinced the Filipino mittslinger to step aside and give Zhong the opportunity to become China’s first world boxing champion.
Zhong made history in November, beating Mexican Javier Martinez Resendiz on points for the vacant WBC minimum weight diadem. However, instead of immediately making a mandatory title defense against Cuello, Zhong chose to dilly-dally and take his sweet time. The showdown only became a certainty after Cuello’s manager Aljoe Jaro threatened to sue the WBC for delaying his protégé’s guaranteed title shot.
“Salamat at na-pagbigyan ng WBC ang request ko,” Jaro told this writer. “Si Denver sabik na sa-bik na talaga siya. Dalawang taon siyang nagtiis at naghintay. Uncrowned champion na nga ang tawag kay Denver.”
Cuello, 26, is the smart money bet to dethrone the diminutive Zhong. The 26-year-old southpaw, who started hitting the sandbag at age 9, turned pro in 2004 and lately has been on a tear, winning his last 12 fights (10 by knockout). Cuello has not lost since May 2010, when he suffered a controversial third-round disqualification loss to Mexican Juan Hernandez.
While waiting for his crack at the world crown, Cuello stayed sharp by winning the WBC’s silver minimumweight title in October 2011 with a smashing first-round demolition of Mexican Carlos Perez. In his most recent outing in April, Cuello hammered out a 10-round decision win over former world title challenger Takashi Kunishige of Japan.
On the other hand, the 30-year-old Zhong (20-4, 11 knockouts) received the WBC minimum weight crown on a silver platter. Zhong was campaigning in the heavier light flyweight (108 pounds) class when he jumped on the chance to contend for the vacant 105-pound championship of the WBC. Just seven months before the fight with Resendiz, Zhong dropped an eight-round unanimous decision to Shin Ono in Japan. That Zhong was able to fight for the WBC title ahead of Cuello has boxing politics written all over it. Cuello, however, is bent on dishing out poetic justice come fight time. “Sisikapin ko na manalo kasi ito na po ang pinakahihintay ko na laban,” he said.
“Lately natatalo ang mga boxers natin, pero sa pagkakataon na ito si Denver ang babawi,” said an equally confident Jaro. “Para sa akin, walang duda na magiging world champion si Denver. Dapat nga noon pa pero ipinagdamot kay Denver. Ngayon, eto na (ang world title shot), kaya pagsisikapan namin na mabawi ang lahat ng talo ng mga nakaraan.”
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