By Chris Errington at ringside
Ricky Hatton’s first promotion in Asia was a night to remember. In the co-main event local hero and rising star Rex ‘Wonderkid’ Tso won a thrilling battle with rock-hard Timur ‘Here Comes Trouble’ Shailezov of Kyrgyzstan. In doing so he claimed the WBC Asia Council Continental super-flyweight belt. Eating enough leather in the first to sink a whole stable of fighters, Rex held on and waged war with his opponent, getting the TKO at 3:00 of the tenth after Shailezov was deemed unfit to continue. That wasn’t his choice. His face a swollen mess, the Kyrgyzstani stayed upright all night, absorbing untold pressure but landing enough to keep Rex in deep water for the duration. Showing huge determination Shailezov only stopped fighting when forced.
Tso looked confident, strutting to the ring with local hip-hop sensations 24 Herbs amid vocal local support. Shailezov… unfazed and vastly more experienced calmly shadow-boxed throughout the fanfare. The referee was Bruce McTavish, once happy to let David Tua unleash an unholy beating on a hapless Shane Cameron. In short, he’s partial to a scrap. True to form, he didn’t disappoint. Within seconds the script was torn up, a hush descending on the partisan crowd as their idol ate hellacious headshots. Firing back, Tso tried to assert himself but was tagged repeatedly as Shailezov set about his best Terminator impression. With more snap in his punches than 3 KOs would suggest, the Kyrgyzstani punished his overzealous opponent, who would’ve benefited from a feeling-out round. In the second a right hook nearly put Tso on his backside. Landing cleaner shots but with less regularity he was in danger of being over-run by Shailezov’s relentless pressure. Vicious flurry’s to the abdomen meant sheer work-rate bested technique whenever the two came together. A granite chin absorbed Tso’s combinations and cast them aside. It was like watching someone punch a brick wall. As the rounds progressed the tide turned. Tso wobbled Shailezov in the third but failed to follow up effectively. Always one punch away from being decked, Tso upped the ante and by the fifth his opponent was marked up heavily around the eyes and losing momentum. Mctavish almost called a stoppage in the sixth with Tso unloading viciously against the ropes. Just when the visitor looked done a huge left hook reminded Tso he was still in a fight. McTavish looked concerned from the sixth but Shailezov did enough to stay in the game. A huge left, right-uppercut combination begged him to fall in the seventh. He didn’t. In the ninth his left eye was swollen shut, the rest of his face close behind. He still beckoned Tso in. He simply didn’t know how to quit. A furious tenth was enough for McTavish, who called the fight between rounds. No-one complained except for Timur Shailezov. Tso, 8-0-0 (5 KOs) will go on to bigger things. Shailezov, now 16-6-1 (3 KOs) will provide a severe test for other quality prospects. Impressive was how a fighter of Tso’s inexperience could fight so hard for ten rounds, especially after taking such a beating early on. He showed great punch variety, stamina, charisma and a good chin. He ate a lot of leather but with better head movement he’ll go far. Hong Kong’s new hero will be a better fighter after this bout. At twenty five, time is on his side.
Browne marches on
Taking a fight on two days notice isn’t easy…especially when you’re nine thousand miles away. Decked in each round by Lucas ‘Big Daddy’ Browne, Florida heavyweight Jason Gavern fell hardest a third and final time at 2:23 of the third. Referee Ferdinand Estrella didn’t bother to count…immediately requesting a Doctor with Gavern slumped limply in the opposing corner.
It wasn’t a great testament to the Heavyweight scene. Gavern’s ring-antics matched the action for action throughout. The opening round saw both men plodding laboriously, a heavy mix of tentative and immobile. Occasional lunging swipes failed to connect on either before a heavy right from Browne put ‘The Sensation’ on the deck late on. The Orlando based fighter got up wobbly before turning to fans and shouting “WOAH!”… a humorous endorsement of the power in the Australian’s fists. The second continued at the same (lack of) pace. Few combinations. Even less footwork. There was smirking between the two, Browne wryly acknowledging the rare occasions his foe connected with venom. For all his shortcomings Gavern was a good sport. When a heavy shot floored him in the second he leaned through the ropes and joked in the direction of Ricky Hatton, the show’s promoter. Sections of the crowd poked fun at him. Shouts of “Kick his ass Seabass” and “Rick Astley’s in the house” rang out between rounds. Chants of ” USA… USA” met predictable opposition and the minimal number of Australians present seemed happy to go unheard.
Decent shots came from the American in the third but were sandwiched between two trips to the canvas. The first, a slip, occurred as both came together in a messy exchange, Gavern losing his feet on the way out. A brief flurry followed but by then Browne could smell blood. After a great right got the Australian’s respect a crushing retaliation put its sender in a sprawling heap by the corner buckle. Backed up and tiring, Gavern couldn’t avoid the shot. Square on the jaw, the single blow brought the referee’s intervention quicker than white on rice. As technical as a sack of potatoes but much stronger, Browne moves up to 14-0-0 (13 KOs). Gavern drops to 21-13-4 (10 KOs). The KlitschKOs have nothing to worry about.
Pushed to last on the bill but worth sticking around for was a super-lightweight bout between once-beaten Thai Ekapol ‘Juke’ Sararam, 13-1-0 (9 KOs) and oft-beaten but tough as nails Filipino Randy Megrino, 12-12-2 (7 KOs). With the event organizers unable to even spell his name correctly on the event program, Megrino was up against it from the start. He didn’t make it easy for Juke though, giving all and earning the Thai’s respect throughout, as shown by the many sporting gestures between the two both during and after the bout. Unable to put his opponent down, the Thai had to settle for a split decision, 56-58, 56-58, 58-57.
Previous Shailezov conqueror Zhanat Zhakiyanov, 19-1-0 (12 KOs) of Kazakhstan destroyed soft-bellied Indonesian Erick Diaz Siregar, 15-19-4 (4 KOs) at 1:03 of the second. Siregar had no answer to Zhakiyanov’s vicious body punches, going down three times before staying down for a ten-count, signaling his corner that he couldn’t go on. The bout was fought at bantamweight.
Australian junior middleweight Olympian Cameron Hammond looked the part on his pro-debut, taking out Zhi Xiang Jiang of China. After a tentative start Hammond’s clean left jabs found a home in the second. His first meaningful punch, a big left hook, had the Chinaman down and on wobbly legs. Pain etched into his face, he was stopped on his feet in the follow-up barrage. Hammond moves to 1-0-0 (1 KO). Jiang drops to 2-2-0 (1 KO).
Welterweight Paddy ‘Irish’ Murphy, 7-0-1 (4 KOs) was the victim of a robbery, given a disgraceful draw against the outclassed Yang Xing Xin, 4-1-2 (3 KOs) of China. Although open at times Murphy generally kept his distance while landing consistently throughout, and was right to criticize the judges in his post-fight interview. How judge Brent Karaitiana of New Zealand gave it 58-56 to Xin is anyone’s guess. The overwhelming feeling in the crowd was that Murphy dominated. Scores were 58-56, 55-59, 57-57.
In a bout that generated much interest popular flyweight debutant Sures Gurung endeared himself to the crowd with an exciting points victory over fellow debutant Roldan Bullong of The Philippines. A Nepali based in Hong Kong, Gurung’s life story was played on a big screen before he entered the arena to massive applause. Raised in hardship and poverty, the young troublemaker only found direction after being arrested for street-fighting aged sixteen. Persuaded to enroll in Operation Breakthrough, a charity organization using sport to rehabilitate young people from underprivileged backgrounds, he began working towards a positive future. Soon to graduate with a bachelors degree in leisure and event management and with a first professional win under his belt, Gurung is a beacon of hope to many troubled youths who see themselves in him.
The opening bout of the evening saw Japanese late-starter Daikichi Shimizu, 1-3-0 go up against Hong Kong debutant Chan Sin Man. In his thirties and I’m told, balancing a career in accountancy, Shimizu gave a spirited but fruitless attempt against the younger, fresher local in this super lightweight bout . Second to the punch for all four rounds, Shimizu came out on the wrong end of a 37-39, 36-40, 37-39 decision.