By Ivan G. Goldman
Among the slim pickings on premium network cards this month is another HBO2 broadcast out of Macau, China featuring a six-rounder July 27 between two-time Olympic Gold winner Zou Shiming and Jesus Ortega, a fighter out of Sonora, Mexico who’s 3-1 (2 KOs).
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
Wise old Bob Arum of Top Rank Promotions is out to build Shiming’s career the same way he cleared the way for another Olympic champion, Oscar De La Hoya, back in the early nineties. He’s putting up a mighty marketing budget to try to make it happen. But the differences between Shiming and Oscar are astronomically numerous. Serious fans don’t need a lengthy comparison chart. Mainly, Oscar was only 19 when he made his pro debut in 1992. Shiming is 32. Plus, Oscar could punch. Shiming is wedded to an amateur style that is very much like a game of tag.
Arum has looked over the concept of putting on big-time pro fights in East Asia and found that area of the world to be a ripe fruit that he can just pick off a low-lying branch, starting with China’s Shiming. Off in the distance, Arum has the great but weathered Manny Pacquiao in against tough Brandon Rios scheduled for Nov. 23 in the same arena at the Venetian resort and casino in Macau.
Arum has formed an alliance with Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of the corporation that owns the Venetian. Adelson is believed to be worth more than $21 billion, give or take a few hundred million. Adelson, who will turn 80 next month, is the youngster in this moneyed partnership. Arum is 81. Adelson figures Arum’s fights will help him attract Asian tycoons to his gaming tables.
Also on the HBO2 card Evgeny Gradovich, 16-0 (8 KOs), will defend his IBF featherweight title against Argentina’s Mauricio Javier Munoz, 26-3 (12 KOs). Gradovich is a Russian who works with Oxnard, Calif. trainer Robert Garcia. Also Juan Francisco Estrada, 24-2 (18 KOs), will defend his WBA and WBO flyweight titles against undefeated Filipino Milan Melindo, 29-0 (12 KOs).
The other premium network card this month will be a ShoBox presentation by Showtime on July 19 out of Las Vegas, featuring a 10-rounder between lightweights Mickey Bey and John Molina with a lead-up match between light heavyweights Badou Jack and Farah Ennis. Molina is coming off a majority decision loss to Andrey Klimov. Bey had his third-round knockout of Robert Rodriguez last February changed to a no-decision by the Nevada commission after his testosterone level measured somewhere up in the stratosphere. Bey also had to pay a $1,000 fine. Consequently, ShoBox, which tries to focus on up-and-coming youngsters and has often chosen exceedingly well, will this month lead off with a couple of fighters whose recent credentials are shaky.
As the premium channels take a step back this month, ESPN2 will present cards every Friday night in July. However, EPIX, a premium carrier that has been sticking its toe from time to time in the boxing waters appears to have packed up and left the beach altogether. That loss could be all the more serious if we are once again faced with the prospect of having no U.S. network picking up the European bouts of heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. He faces Alexander Povetkin Oct. 5 in Moscow. HBO is apparently flirting with this fight but as far as I can tell has so far refused to make a solid commitment.
It’s not clear Wladimir’s formidable brother Vitali, who turns 42 this month, will ever fight again. If he does, look for U.S. networks to ignore him too. Vitali has been embroiled in the rough-and-tumble politics of Ukraine, where he is a party leader and member of the parliament.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in June 2013 by Potomac Books. It can be purchased here.