By Mark G. Butcher, reporting from ringside in Macao: Chinese hero Zou Shiming delighted his many fans by grinding down plucky Thai teenager Yokthong Kokietgym in seven rounds to score his first professional stoppage in front of an excited and partisan crowd at the Cotai Arena.
Zou, whose last three fights were watched by 920 MILLION people across Asia, showed heavier hands and the extra devil necessary if he is to make his and a nation’s dreams come true by winning a world title before the end of the year. IBF flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng, a former amateur foe, was an interested spectator at ringside and could meet the Chinese fighter as early as November. Zou will first have a 10-rounder or two to prepare him for the championship distance with his next fight scheduled for May 31st at the Venetian.
“I just followed Freddie’s gameplan,” said Zou afterwards. “To this moment, I don’t know which hand knocked Kokietgym out. I wasn’t looking for it, from round one I was just looking for the win. Today I was calm and that’s how the KO happened. I would give myself an 8 out of 10. There is still a long way to go. The remaining two is the world title.”
“Shiming fought a very good fight tonight. I am really happy with his performance. He made some nice adjustments in there,” added trainer Freddie Roach. “He’s becoming a very good professional fighter. We’re four fights in now, I don’t know if we’re ready for a title fight yet, but it will be pretty soon. Shiming, thanks for making me look good!”
The double Olympic champion, now 4-0 (1), stung his Thai opponent with a right hand in the first that brought a roar from the crowd filled with many mainland Chinese visitors. Zou’s hands looked heavier than in his first few fights and he continually backed his younger foe up by the ropes to seal an effective opening round.
The second was more equal. Kokietgym, 15-4 (11), had not come to lie down and held his own. Every shot landed by Zou was greeted by cheers and exultation by the partisan home crowd. One sweet left hook in particular stopped the Thai in his tracks in the third.
The two-time Olympic gold medal winner’s greater boxing pedigree was evident in the fourth as he used neat textbook skills to keep the gutsy Thai at bay. The unbeaten fighter was in full command in the fifth, but his foe from Roi Et, Thailand, refused to budge and punched his gloves together in self-motivation, enlivening the pro-Zou crowd.
Zou, regarded as the second most popular sportsman in China after former NBA star Yao Ming, was gradually breaking down his Thai foe. In the sixth, the Chinese fighter’s punches began to take their toll, forcing Kokietgym to backpedal desperately to safety.
They craved a knockout and then the knockout came. A non-stop barrage of blows sent the overwhelmed Thai to the canvas as the Cotai Arena erupted. Zou rushed in and slipped in his eagerness to finish the job. A second knockdown soon came via a right hand, but still the brave Kokietgym rose for more. But Zou was not to be denied. He piled forward throwing a succession of heavy blows that floored the Thai for a third time and sent the crowd in Macao into raptures.
The end came at 2.09 of the seventh round. Referee in charge was Sawaeng Thawekoon.