By: William Holmes
It’s been nearly a year since HBO 2 began to broadcast professional boxing . Actually, it’s been about a year since HBO 2 began to only show fights with Zou Shiming in the main event. Every single one of his fights has been broadcast in the United States through HBO 2, and the only boxer to ever fight as the main event on HBO 2 has been Zou Shiming.
Luckily for fight fans, besides the standard Zou Shiming televised mismatch they’ll be treated to a competitive IBF Lightweight title fight between Miguel Vazquez and Denis Shafikov. Macau, China will be the host for Saturday’s Top Rank card and looks to continue its newfound dominance in the fight game as the premier destination for big time fights in Asia.
The following is a preview of both of the televised fights on Saturday afternoon.
Zou Shiming (3-0) vs. Yokthong Kokietgym (15-3); Flyweights
It’s been repeated over and over, Zou Shiming is best boxing prospect to ever come out of China and he had a much decorated amateur career. He’s a two time Olympic gold medalist and usually that translates to professional success.
However, he has zero stoppages on his resume against sub-par competition. He’s also thirty two years old. He might compete for a belt sometime soon, and it should be soon considering he’s already near the end of his physical prime, but his lack of power won’t translate to pay per view buys. Especially in the United States.
His opponent, Yokthong Kokeitgym, is the most experienced opponent Shiming has faced to date. He’s also one of the youngest.
Kokietgym comes from the muay thai crazed nation of Thailand and is only nineteen years old. He fought six times in 2013 and is an extremely busy fighter. He’s stopped eleven of his opponents but none of them are of any note. In fact, all of his victories have come against fighters with two fights or less. He did suffer back to back losses in 2012, and one of them was against Ryuiji Hara, who is currently 16-0.
Yokthong Kokeitgym is dangerous for Shiming in that you don’t know what to expect from him and he is likely far more experienced than his age. He has one fight up on youtube and from that fight you can tell he has an awkward style. But this is another bout that Shiming should shine in and coast to an easy victory.
Miguel Vazquez (33-3) vs. Denis Shafikov (33-0); IBF Lightweight Title
Miguel Vazquez isn’t the world’s most exciting boxer, but he certainly is effective. His three losses came against current junior middleweight kingpin Canelo Alvarez (twice) and undefeated welterweight Timothy Bradley. He’s also been the IBF Lightweight Champion since he defeated Ji-Hoon Kim in 2010.
That’s pretty impressive resume for a lightweight.
However, Vazquez is lacking a signature win. He’s defeated the likes of Mercito Gesta, Marvin Quintero, Daniel Attah, Leonardo Zappavigna, and Breidis Prescott. Good fighters, but not great. He also isn’t known for his power. He only has thirteen stoppages to his record and one in his last five.
He’ll be five inches taller than Shafikov and will also have a significant reach advantage. That will play well into Vazquez’s style of sticking and moving. He’s a very difficult fighter to catch up to and trap and Shafikov will have to be at his best in order to get Vazquez off of his gameplan.
Shafikov has fought as a junior welterweight as recently as 2012 and has held European titles in the 140 pound weight class. He has eighteen stoppages on his record but only one in his last five fights.
He’s a compact boxer with a powerful body attack. If he hopes to slow down Vazquez he will have to attack the body early and stick with it. He’s defeated decent opponents but nobody spectacular. His notable victories include Alisher Rahimov, Albert Mensah, Brunet Zamora, and Lee McAllister.
One thing that jumped out at me when looking at Shafikov’s resume is that he has fought nearly everywhere. He’s fought in the United States, Russia, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Finland, Latvia, and Belarus. A boxer who’s undefeated and willing to travel is usually a very good fighter.
Vazquez’s experience should give him the edge on Saturday, but Shafikov should be considered to be a very live dog.