Slick Cuenca schools Yang
The movement and ring smarts of Cesar Cuenca were too much for the hopeful potshots of Ik Yang as the 5-1 underdog from Argentina upset the odds to win the vacant IBF super-lightweight champion at the Cotai Arena.
Slick southpaw Cuenca triumphed 117-110, 115-110 and 116-109 on the official scorecards. Boxing Monthly scored 116-110 from ringside.
The Argentine was just too savvy and experienced for the uncomplicated Yang whose bull-like rushes rarely made an impact and he was always playing catch-up on the scorecards.
“The key thing was my experience,” said Cuenca afterwards. “I worked hard in camp and sacrificed a lot. He hurt me a bit and had some good punches, but I was just a little smarter than him.”
Cuenca enjoyed the perfect start when a cuffing left hand caught Yang off balance and referee Danrex Tapdasan ruled a knockdown, much to the ire of promoter Bob Arum who felt the Argentine’s corner intimidated the official throughout.
The co-challenger from San Miguel suburb of Buenos Aires immediately settled into his rhythm and his movement was a cause of immense frustration to Yang who was warned twice in the second for low blows.
In the fifth, Cuenca’s control in the contest made him over-ambitious and he was caught coming in by a right hand to give Yang a glimmer of hope. The Argentine was, rather surprisingly, hurting Yang repeatedly in the sixth with left hands down the pipe, making a mockery of his ridiculously low stoppage count.
The Chinese fighter was reliant on his natural brawn and single shots as Cuenca’s superior footwork and punch accuracy racked up the points. The Cotai Arena crowd tried their best to encourage their man with shouts of ‘add oil, add oil’ but Yang was unable to close the gap in the ring and on the scorecards.
A point deduction in the last round – given for bundling Cuenca to the canvas - negated a rare round for Yang and the Argentine ran out a worthy winner.
Leading lightweight Denis Shafikov scored an odd third round victory over former WBA 130lbs title challenger Roy Mukhlis who turned his back and quit in the third round of a scheduled 10-rounder.
Aggressive southpaw Shafikov, 36-1-1 (20 KOs), was supposed to face Mickey Bey for the IBF lightweight title on this bill, but the American relinquished rather than face his mandatory contender.
Indonesian Mukhlis stepped in as a late replacement and was on the backfoot immediately as the relentless Russian cut off the ring. A cuffing left by the ropes sent Mukhlis down for an official count and he kept glancing out of the ring as if he wished he was somewhere else.
Mukhlis, 27-5-3 (21 KOs), engaged in the third before a right hook and left hand caused him to move away to his corner and turn his back, leaving the referee no option but to stop the fight after 1-14 of the third.
Former five-weight world champion Nonito Donaire impressed with a two-round blowout of Frenchman Anthony Settoul to set up a potential WBA ‘regular’ 122lbs title clash with champion Scott Quigg in either Dubai or the UK.
After a cagey opening, Donaire floored Settoul, 20-4 (8 KOs), with a delayed action shot upstairs before sending him down shortly afterwards with a punishing left to the liver. Settoul was in dreadful trouble but the bell saved him.
It was merely a stay of execution. Donaire floored the Frenchman again with a right hand in the second and, when Settoul rose on unsteady feet, his corner compassionately threw in the towel after 1.41 of the round.
Donaire, 35-3 (23 KOs), has looked razor sharp in his final workouts in the basement gym of the Venetian Casino and seems to have that old fire back in his system.
Jose Carlos Ramirez won in peculiar circumstances when Japan’s Ryusei Yoshida refused to come out for the fourth round claiming he ‘couldn’t see’. The touted Ramirez had Yoshida under significant pressure at the end of the third and that appeared to play a part in the retirement.
Yoshida came out to the theme tune for ‘Enter The Dragon’ prompting a few hacks to drop karate moves at ringside, but the Japanese left most of his fire in his ringwalk. He enjoyed a decent opening round, having some joy with right hands, but his ambition waned from the second.
Former U.S. Olympian Ramirez, 15-0 (12 KOs), had success with his bodywork in the second, hurting the Japanese downstairs with some vicious left hooks. Yoshida made light of the situation in the third and resorted to showboating, only to be nailed by an unamused Ramirez.
Super-lightweight hope Ramirez had Yoshida, 26-8 (13 KOs), in trouble at the end of the third and that would prove to be the last action of the contest. The Japanese fighter wanted no more and the contest was halted between rounds to bemusement at ringside.
World-rated super-flyweight Rex Tso moved to 17-0 (10 KOs) with a one-sided stoppage of Thai Khunkhiri Wor Wisaruth in a catchweight eight-rounder.
Tso, who is often dragged into a gut-wrenching war, began more patiently than usual, utilizing his long southpaw lead and dropping in some effective southpaw left hands.
Rex being Rex engaged more in the second, but the Thai, a natural 122-pounder, did not have sufficient power to trouble him. Wor Wisaruth was weakening in the third and beginning to ship punishment.
Tso was in total control in the fourth, punching the Thai from pillar to ringpost. Wor Wisaruth was in trouble by the ropes when the referee stepped in a touch early after 2.55 of the round. But the outcome was never in doubt.
‘The Macao Kid’ KK Ng took time to fathom the awkward switch-hitting style of Phompetch Twins Gym before scoring a spectacular fourth round knockout in a welterweight six.
Ng struggled early as Twins Gym, 6-3 (3 KOs), befuddled him by switching stances and peppered him from unfamiliar angles. But ‘The Macao Kid’ has power at his level and his crisp right hands were starting to take their toll by the third.
He finally dropped the Thai in the fourth with a right uppercut. Twins Gym survived but Ng immediately looked for the same shot and poleaxed the Thai with another right uppercut after 2.02 of the fourth. Ng adjusted well after a sluggish start. He moves to 8-0 (4 KOs).
Chinese light-heavyweight Qu Peng, 8-1-1 (5 KOs), looked fortunate to scrape a hometown nod against Aussie Michael Van Nimwegen, 7-4 (4 KOs) in the show opener. All three judges scored 58-56 for Peng who, at best, nicked a draw.
Every Peng punch greeted with 'oohs', but he was very wild. Van Nimwegen applied steady pressure, but wasn’t busy enough in the first. The Chinese was raw and robotic, hurling hopeful haymakers and looked ragged by the third as Van Nimwegen chugged forward with effect.
Peng regrouped in the fourth with a right hand that stunned the Australian. The Chinese fans shouted ‘add oil’ to inspire their man as he flagged in the fifth but he was far too reliant on one shot. Yet a spirited sixth was enough to clinch him an unlikely win.
A wild super-middleweight brawl between China’s Zulpikar Maimaitiali and Ju Young Kwon was ruled a two round technical draw after clash of heads left the Korean, 3-0-1 (0 KO), unable to continue. Maimaitiali, 1-0-1 (1 KO), was on top when the end came after 1.28 of the second round.