By Derek Bonnett
Rising boxing venue, Cotai Arena played host to another major Top Rank boxing promotion in the lighter weights classes. The Venetian Resort, based in Macao, Macao, S.A.R, China, featured a seven bout card with three to be televised on a time delay via HBO. China’s Olympic sensation, Zou Shiming returned for his second pro bout in the main event. Supporting the card, Juan Francisco Estrada’s WBO/WBA flyweight titles were on the line against highly ranked Milan Melindo. Also, "The Russian-Mexican", Evgeny Gradovich put his his IBF featherweight title up for grabs for the first time against Mauricio Javier Munoz.
The main event appeared greatly misplaced on the bout sheet after watching Estrada and Melindo put forth a Fight of the Year effort, but Zou Shiming showed he has the support of a nation behind him after winning a sloppy, defenseless six round decision over much younger Jesus Ortega. Shiming, 32, fought with an invisible tank-top on for all eighteen minutes of this flyweight contest: arms straight, head held high, and charging forward. The action itself was not unwatchable, but with all the attention and money being thrown at Shiming, who appears to show little development as a pro under the guidance of Freddie Roach. Shiming actually looked stunned by Ortega after over committing on his punches late in the first round. Ortega followed the script of this one though and failed to provide any real insight into Shiming’s mental game or intestinal fortitude.
The scorecards were tallied quickly rewarding Shiming with a clear and deserved decision by three counts of 59-55. Shiming raised his record to 2-0 (0). Ortega fell to 3-2 (2). China’s favorite boxer will likely secure a world title fight before his tenth pro bout regardless of his opposition. Unless he improves greatly, there is not an elite class flyweight on the radar that he can contend with.
In the fight of the night, Juan Francisco Estrada, 23, gave Milan Melindo an overdue shot at the flyweight crown and their twelve rounder did not disappoint. The first round set the tone for much of the contest as Estrada, known as Gallito, applied steady pressure with the right hand as he worked his way into his comfort zone. To the surprise of many, Melindo, 25, was able to rock the champion with a left in the closing seconds of the round to equal out the round. Estrada landed more frequently in round two as he worked the right hand, but Melindo was not to be outdone with his best shots and took the third with a series of double and triple left hooks. Estrada fought much more cautiously than he had in seemingly bigger match-ups with Brian Viloria and Roman Gonzalez. Melindo’s power shots surfaced at the right time to keep the champion from reaching a higher gear. Estrada edged the fourth round, but Melindo seized command of the fight in rounds five and six with clean left hands. Melindo even had some success with a hybrid uppercut-hook ala Razor Ruddock’s "Smash".
Round seven saw both fighter’s taking it easier after a strong first half. Yet another round seemed evenly contested. The champion resurged in the eighth and started snapping straight punches with a level of fervor yet seen in the bout. Melindo responded by upping his own game. Estrada likely too the ninth narrowly, but the Filipino challenger more than held his own. Round ten was back and forth and probably the round of the fight. Gallito controlled the action early, but Melindo fired off an impressive final minute assault to make it hard to declare him a loser of the frame. The scores opened up in the championship rounds as Estrada showed what it means to be a title holder with greater world class experience in recent fights. Melindo stopped firing from the left side and paid the price from a hard right cross. Melindo hit the canvas late in the round, but appeared clear headed. Upon the start of the twelfth, it became clear that Melindo was still a little fuzzy and he clammed up in order to survive the assault from one of Mexico’s most overlooked champions today. Estrada pressed the entire round, but Melindo refused to open up and give the champion the edge he needed to inflict further damage.
After twelve exciting rounds, my SecondsOut scored reflected a highly competitive contest with a score of 117-113 or 6-3-3 in rounds. The official judges were less apt to score even rounds and favored Estrada by seemingly wide margins of 118-110 and 117-111 twice. Estrada made his initial defense of his titles and improved his ledger to 25-2 (18). Melindo dipped to 29-1 (12) in a very game contest. Estrada’s lone defeats have some to the top men at 115 and 108 in Juan Carlos Sanchez and Roman Gonzalez, respectively. He’s proven himself more than worthy of their challenge in rematches.