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Amnat Ruenroeng hands Zou Shiming first pro loss, retains IBF title

Amnat Ruenroeng put a damper on the event in Macau, knocking off Zou Shiming to retain the IBF flyweight title.

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Amnat Ruenroeng kept his hot streak going and stayed unbeaten against many if not all odds today in Macau, beating two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming rather handily over 12 rounds, winning on unanimous scores of 116-111 in an ugly fight that was almost shockingly scored competently. BLH had it 116-111 for Ruenroeng, as well.

Shiming (6-1, 1 KO) simply looked a bit out of his depth against Ruenroeng (15-0, 5 KO), a solid pro who had gone 12 tough rounds with the likes of Kazuto Ioka and McWilliams Arroyo in his last two fights, both possibly better fighters than Shiming is at this point in his career, counting amateurs and pros.

Ruenroeng scored consistently with his jab in the fight, setting up solid right hands a few nice left hooks at distance. When Shiming would attempt to get inside -- which wasn't often enough -- Ruenroeng was able to easily tie him up and cut off any possible momentu, and Zou just never was able to establish a rhythm or put in any serious offensive work.

The fight was also an ugly, sloppy affair on both sides. Zou's biggest highlight of the night came on a second round knockdown, which was debatable at best, a cuffing right hand that nicked Ruenroeng while the Thai fighter was off-balance. But that's not to blame referee Mark Nelson, who had a 50-50 chance of getting that call right in real time, and it was not an easy one. Nelson also should be commended for handling a very rough and messy fight nicely, keeping control of the situation even after an early judo throw from Ruenroeng set an ominous tone. The two fighters constantly clashed heads, with both men diving in, or lowering their heads when the other man dove in. It wasn't an easy job for the referee, but since we give officials so much guff when they screw up, let's also give Mark Nelson credit for a strong performance.

Shiming didn't look bad, exactly, but exactly as he has as a pro, and really exactly as he did in London in 2012, when in many viewers' minds he was gifted a gold medal. If you recall, each of the four men he faced in London was highly competitive, and there were arguments to be made against Zou in all of those fights, particularly the last two against Paddy Barnes and Kaeo Pongprayoon. He looked past his prime then, and hasn't looked anywhere near an elite level fighter as a pro.

When one compares the way that Shiming has looked, for instance, to the way Vasyl Lomachenko has looked as a pro, it's night and day. Lomachenko retains a few "bad habits" from his amateur days, and certainly isn't a flawless fighter, but his strengths outshine those things. With Shiming, it's the other way around. He's game, he's willing to fight and go toe-to-toe despite a lack of punching power, and he's got some skills, but his defense is filled with gaping holes and offensively, he just doesn't have the firepower or variety to stand out. It's been easier to point out Shiming's shortcomings than his strengths over his seven pro fights, and from even the early outings in 2013, it seemed only a matter of time before he would lose, and the good bet was on it happening before he became the serious star Top Rank wanted him to be.

That happened today, as Ruenroeng was too much for him. Amnat was calm, collected, and confident from the opening round on. He wasn't pretty, but he was able to disrupt anything that Zou wanted to do, making the challenger look fidgety as Zou seemed to second guess his own attacks frequently. When Zou did open up, Ruenroeng often found him with counter shots that scored and made an impression. And when Zou waited, Ruenroeng was content to jab. He always seemed in control of the fight.

What this means for boxing in Macau might be the bigger story. Macau has been like Dubai or Abu Dhabi except there have actually been big fight cards there, and the sport has gained a foothold. Whether or not too much of the early following was devoted to the idea of Zou Shiming being an elite world championship fighter remains to be seen. If the fans there were fans of Shiming and not really fans of boxing as a whole, the venture could collapse in short order. But there are other fighters gaining some traction, too, and while they don't have Shiming's national hero status, the sport could still thrive. There's no doubt that it's a world class city with great facilities. And really, the fact that this decision didn't go Zou's way speaks very highly of their commission and the officials there.

What did you think of the fight? And do you think Zou Shiming will bounce back from this, or was it just as good as he can do?

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