If you'd forgotten how horrible Miguel Vazquez is to watch in the 14 months he was away from the ring, he served up a reminder on HBO2 Saturday's tape delayed show from China. He took a unanimous decision over Dennis Shafikov in a fight where his biggest difficulty was a cut around his left eye in the 4th round.
If you have never seen Vazquez fight, it's mildly fascinating in the early rounds to see him win rounds the way he does — circling, rarely getting hit, landing jabs, landing the occasional 1-2 and landing lead left uppercuts. But it gets old awfully quickly as the fight goes on, especially if you've endured it repeatedly. Shafikov was not without his stretches of success, attacking to the body or catching Vazquez backing up at times. But he had his own left eye cut in the 7th, much worse than Vazquez's, and was visibly tiring by the 8th, when Vazquez tried to hold him twice and ended up tackling him.
The score of 115-113 from Patricia Morse Jarman was more than faintly ridiculous — how do you score five rounds for Shafikov in that fight if you're not just giving Shafikov credit for moving forward? The 116-112 card wasn't much better, with the 119-109 far more like reality. His inactivity ended, Vazquez's win over a top 10 contender in Shafikov restores him to the top of the lightweight food chain. If he didn't have an alphabet belt, I doubt he'd ever be on TV again. Hurray for that?
The main event in China, but not on HBO, featured the continued offensive evolution of flyweight Zou Shiming, who scored the first knockout of his pro career in his fourth fight. Through four, the Olympian was getting hit a bit too much by Yokthong Kokietgym, a higher-end opponent for a pro's fourth fight (he was knocked out in two by contender Ryuji Hara in 2012). Shiming's offense has developed rather well under trainer Freddie Roach. He's taken on some Manny Pacquiao-like qualities on offense, that kind of two-fisted charge from unconventional foot position. And he can take a punch against this level of opposition, but he is still sloppy on defense. By the 5th he had tamed Kokietgym a bit by hurting him and wasn't getting tagged as often. In the 7th, he put Kokietgym down three times on combinations, and the fight probably should've been stopped after the second knockdown. He was in very bad shape after the third, and then it was over.
As long as Shiming makes money in the burgeoning market of China, we'll keep seeing him on HBO or its affiliates. When he's ready for contender-level competition will depend on how he fares as he keeps stepping up, obviously. But despite facing more advanced than usual competition, it feels like he won't be ready for another year or more, at this pace.