YOU can run but you can't hide, so goes the popular boxing adage from former heavyweight champion Joe ‘The Brown Bomber’ Louis.
After being avoided like a plague by the champions in the minimumweight division, longtime contender Denver ‘The Excitement’ Cuello will finally battle World Boxing Council (WBC) 105-pound kingpin Xiong Zhao Zhong of China on June 28 at the World Trade Centre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The fight marks a long-cherished fistic date for Cuello, whose manager Aljoe Jaro went as far as threatening legal action against the WBC for delaying his ward's title shot.
"Siyempre masaya na ako at lalo na si Denver," an obviously pleased Jaro told Spin.ph. "Matagal kong tinrabaho ito at ito na ang reward na hinihintay namin. Dapat ay noon pa hawak ni Denver (ang title) kaya lang talagang iniiwas sa amin. Ngayon at nakiusap na ako sa WBC na dapat i-award na agad sa amin ang title (shot) na ito, dahil almost six months ng hawak ng Chinese na hindi naman niya maidepensa. Salamat at napagbigyan ng WBC ang request ko."
Cuello, 33-4 with 21 knockouts, has been the mandatory challenger for the WBC's minimumweight diadem for the last two years and is definitely itching to bash the incumbent champ's head. In 2012, he was on a collision course with then WBC champion Kazuto Ioka, but the Japanese vacated the throne in July of the same year and opted to move up in weight rather than face Cuello's wrath. As the No. 1 ranked contender of the WBC, Cuello was supposed to take on the No. 2 contender at the time for the vacant WBC belt, but the Filipino was convinced by WBC President Jose Sulaiman to step aside and give Zhong a shot at becoming China's first world boxing champion.
On November 24, Zhong decisioned Mexican Javier Martinez Resendiz in 12 rounds to collar the vacant WBC minimumweight championship. Lo and behold, after winning the crown Zhong chose to be inactive rather than immediately risk the crown against Cuello. Finally pinned in a corner, Zhong is now mandated to face the Filipino.
"Sabik na sabik na talaga si Denver," said Jaro. "Dalawang taon na siyang nagtitiis at naghihintay. Uncrowned champion na nga ang tawak kay Denver."
Cuello is the overwhelming pick to beat up Zhong. The 26-year-old southpaw, who started boxing at age nine after watching Mansueto ‘Onyok’ Velasco's exploits in the Olympics, offers an unconventional but explosive style. He fights in a classic stand-up mode, occasionally bobbing and weaving before decimating foes with his wicked left straight or hook. Cuello has been unbeaten in his last 12 fights, his last setback coming by way of a controversial disqualification loss to Mexican Juan Hernandez in May 2010.
In stark contrast, the 30-year-old Zhong (20-4, 11 knockouts) has been given a free pass to the WBC throne. He was nowhere ranked in the Top 10 in the minimumweight division and was in fact campaigning in the heavier light flyweight class (108 pounds) when he fought Resendiz for the 105-pound hardware. Zhong turned pro in 2006 and suffered his first setback in November 2008 by way of a 12-round unanimous decision loss to Filipino Julius Alcos. Seven months before the Resendiz fight, Zhong was also beaten on points by Shin Ono.
The title is clearly for Cuello to grab and hold, but the Iloilo native is leaving nothing to chance. "Sa tingin ko kaya ko po pero hindi ako magkukumpyansa sa Chinese at talagang sisikapin ko na manalo kasi ito na ang pinakahihintay ko, ang mapalaban sa world title," Cuello said. "Sa awa ng Diyos, sana makapagbigay din tayo ng karangalan sa bansa.”