As I expected, Zou Shiming of China failed to collar the International Boxing Federation (IBF) world flyweight title (112-pound) in a bout with Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng over the weekend.
My thesis (or anti-thesis) was simple: Zou was simply too raw to contend for a world title at this point, even if he boasts of being a three-time Olympic gold medalist. Zou cannot even be compared to Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux, also a two-time gold medalist, when it comes to boxing skills and punching power.
With a record of 6-0 with one knockout entering the fight, Zou definitely needed more tune up fights to contend for a world title.
Ruenroeng, whose record is now 15-1 with 5 KOs, can even be described as the “safest” choice among the current crop of world flyweight title holders because of his low knockout percentage and rather advanced age of 35.
Truth is Ruenroeng, even if he is ranked third in The Ring flyweight rankings, hardly compares to the top dogs in the flyweight division like Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua whose record of 42-0 with 36 KOs is scary. Then there’s Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico (31-2 with 22 KOs) and our every own Brian Villoria (35-4 with 21KOs).
To Shiming’s credit, he knocked down Ruenroeng in the second round and withstood some of the Thai’s rough housing (or you can call it dirty tricks). But at the end of the fight, Ruenroeng obviously won the fight even if he resorted to playing it safe in the later rounds.
The real dilemma of Zou from the time he embarked on his professional boxing career is much was expected of him, but he started quite late. Entering the fight against Ruenroeng, Zou was already 33 years old.
Zou can still recover and attempt to win the world flyweight title. But going up against Roman and Estrada would be suicidal because the two title holders can punch and are definitely notches above Ruenroeng.
The Chinese boxer can also aspire for the junior bantamweight (super flyweight/115 pounds) title, but it is obvious The Ring champion Naoya Inoue of Japan (8-0 with 7 KOs), Carlos Cuadras of Mexico (31-0-1 with 25 KOs) and Thailand’s Srikaset Sor Rungvisai (32-4-1 with 29 KOs) are many notches above Ruenroeng.
Perhaps it was better that Zou did not bask in the limelight from the onset of his professional boxing career, the same way Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire made their way to the top without much fanfare. By not basking in the limelight, the pressure on Zou’s shoulders to become the first Chinese boxer to win a professional world title would not have been that great.
Besides, the pressure of having to be the next boxing superstar after winning an Olympic gold is tremendous, and very few are able to deliver. Among the few Olympic gold medallists who became boxing superstars were Oscar Dela Hoya and Pernell Whitaker. Of the two, Dela Hoya was the one who really made it big.
But Dela Hoya started his professional boxing career at 20 years old and at nearly 5’11” had a big size advantage in the junior lightweight (130-pound) division. After compiling an impressive a record of 11-0 with 10 KOs, Dela Hoya on March 5, 1994 stopped Jimmi Brehdal to win the World Boxing Organization junior lightweight title.
Comparing the boxing careers of Zou and Dela Hoya, the latter could have participated in the 1996 or even the 2000 Olympics and win two more gold medals. But he decided to turn pro immediately.
Had Zou forgone winning one or two more gold medals in the Olympics, he could have started his professional boxing career earlier and evolved gradually into a top fighter.
But let’s not denigrate Zou, because winning three gold medals from the Olympics is a feat in itself. I just hope the Chinese boxer doesn’t get badly beaten in his next title fights. For sure, the top dogs in the flyweight and junior bantamweight divisions would like to boast that they beat a three-time Olympic gold medallist.