Saturday, July 27, 2013

HBO Boxing

Zou Shiming vs. Jesus Ortega, 6 rounds, flyweight
Evgeny Gradovich vs. Mauricio Munoz, 12 rounds, featherweight
Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Milan Melindo, 12 rounds, flyweight
Andy Ruiz vs. Joe Hanks, 10 rounds, heavyweight
Genesis Servania vs. Konosuke Tomiyama, 10 rounds, junior featherweight
Rex Tso vs. Rusalee Samor, 4 or 6 rounds, junior bantamweight
Dave Penalosa vs. Ngaotawa Sithsaithong, 6 rounds, junior featherweight

This weekend's Zou Shiming vs. Jesus Ortega HBO2 headliner is an interesting fight primarily for its position in a larger story. That story: the (possible) rise of Zou Shiming. Shiming's accomplishments are well documented - three time Olympic medalist, two of them Gold, multiple titles in a host of other events, and now an undefeated 1-0 as a pro. There are obviously high hopes for him, from HBO, from Top Rank, and from the entire country of China. The questions is, can he meet those lofty expectations?
Can Zou Shiming become the champion many expect and want him to become, or will he be another in the long line of great amateurs who sputtered out at the professional level?

We're unlikely to get a clear cut answer to this question on Saturday, though if Ortega crushes him, it will be a strong mark in the "washout" column. Shiming is currently a work in progress. He's the rare fighter where his entire professional career will be competed under a microscope. We've seen him make a solid though not spectacular pro debut earlier this year, and now we'll see what he brings to the table in his second fight. Will he bring enough to become a champion? Time will tell, but if a hall of fame pro career is in the cards for him, he'll need to show two things against Ortega:
1. Focus. Freddie Roach has already called Shiming out on this, saying that he needs to focus and elevate his game for this fight. Roach wants to see less grandstanding and showboating, more committed boxing. I agree to an extent - Anderson Silva showed us what too much showboating can do to you - but at the same time, a hint of that showmanship is part of what makes a fighter a star. What Shiming does need to avoid however is buying into his hype and looking past Ortega. This is a fight designed for a Shiming victory, but if Shiming sees it that way and loses focus on the fight ahead of him, that could fall apart.
2. Power. If there is one element that drags down successful amateurs turned pro, it's this. The amateur game, including the Olympics, is so based on points that KOs are a rarity. For Shiming to be successful, he'll need to find the KO power that he didn't need in the Olympics. If he can't figure out how to stop his pro opponents, there will be a ceiling to just how far he can climb in the professional ranks.
This weekend's fight is an exciting chance to see a fighter truly develop. What the future holds for Shiming is uncertain. But if he is to achieve the bright future that possibly lies ahead of him, these two elements - focus and power - will need to be firmly on display Saturday. We'll be watching to see how it all plays out.

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