Boxing history of a sort unfolded in the provincial Chinese city of Kunming over the weekend when, for the first time in history, a professional boxer from China won a world title. Xiong Zhao Zhong captured the vacant WBC strawweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Mexican journeyman Javier Martinez Resendiz on Saturday night, making the planet’s most-populous nation a player in the pro game.
This latest achievement by China comes after light flyweight Zou Shiming repeated his gold medal-winning effort from 2008 at the 2012 Games, earning the nation their first two golds in boxing.
Zhong (20-4-1, 11 knockouts), who wasn’t ranked by the WBC heading in to the Resendiz bout, has been mandated by the WBC to face mandatory challenger Denver Cuello in his first defense. Cuello (32-4-6, 21 KOs) of Binangonan, Rizal, Philippines became the mandatory in May by knocking out Mexican Ganigan Lopez in two rounds in a final elimination bout but was asked to step-aside to allow Zhong to fight for the title.
An email to the WBC seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned.
Cuello, along with manager/trainer Aljoe Jaro, was at ringside in China to watch Zhong in action and wasn’t too impressed with what they saw.
“To me, I know he will not reach the twelfth round [when we fight],” said the 25-year-old Cuello. “If I hit him hard early on, the fight is over.
“I have no fear because the Mexicans that I fought against are better than Zhao, in my opinion. Most of the people that I fought against are big and mobile. Zhong is short and doesn’t really know how to move.”
Cuello, who says he believes the bout will happen in China in late-February, has lost just once in his last 28 bouts, which include a knockout victory over former world titleholder Muhammad Rachman. The only loss during that stretch – a disqualification in three – came in another WBC elimination bout in 2010 when Cuello struck his opponent Juan Hernandez after Hernandez had already been floored.
Zhong, 30, has won twice since dropping an eight-round unanimous decision in Japan to Shin Ono (who entered the bout at 12-5-2) this past April. The reigning titleholder had previously lost to then-WBC flyweight titleholder Daisuke Naito in his only previous title attempt, but managed to knock Naito down in the sixth. His first loss came on his home soil, coincidentally to another Filipino named Julius Alcos in 2008 via unanimous decision.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel and can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.