Denver Cuello vs Xiong Zhao Zhong: Pre-Fight Analysis

Updated: June 26, 2013


On Friday, June 28th at 8pm (June 29th at 12mn in the Philippines) at Hall No. 8 of the Dubai World Trade Center in UAE, Denver “The Excitement” Cuello of Binangonan, Rizal and reigning world champion, Xiong Zhao Zhong of Kunming China will fight for the WBC Minimumweight (105 pounds) belt that the latter is defending for the very first time.

The 12-round showdown between the two will serve as a historical milestone as it will be the very first world championship match-up that will be staged in the host country.  The fight is promoted by the Dubai-based company, KO Promotions of local businessman Zach Taumafi in association with WBC and the event organizer, Q & U Entertainment.



Denver Cuello

The Cabatuan, Iloilo-raised warrior will come into the fight as the WBC Silver Minimumweight champion and the number one-ranked mandatory challenger to the Chinese champion.  This will be his first attempt at a world title in an over eight-year career that started back in August of 2004 and is highlighted by 43 fights.

He has been waiting on this opportunity for quite a long while now since successfully defending the WBC International Minimumweight championship from Samartlek Chaiyonggym of Thailand on March 16, 2011 and annexing the then vacant WBC Silver Minimumweight crown via 1st-round TKO against Mexican Carlos “La Ranita” Perez on October 16, 2011.

When he was about to challenge then erstwhile ruler, Kazuto Ioka, following his 2nd-round TKO win over Mexico’s Ganigan “El Zurdo” Lopez on May 20, 2012 to defend his Silver strap for the second time; the Japanese opted to ascend to the Light Flyweight division instead.  This consequently left the title vacant after warding off the challenge of what would be the Japanese champion’s last defense in countryman Akira Yaegashi in a WBC-WBA unification showdown on June 20, 2012.

Cuello then thought that he was already going to shoot for the vacated title until the WBC requested him to set aside for a fee of $25,000 just so they could arrange a historical undertaking in which a Chinese boxer would fight for a world title for the first time.  He and his camp obliged showing their respect for the organization and its patriarch, Don Jose Sulaiman and their cooperation for making the classical dream come true.

Chinese Xiong Zhao Zhong and Mexican Javier Martinez “Demonio” Resendiz would eventually be the lucky participants to the endeavor with the former coming out as the winner in a very close fight and making history as the first Chinese world beltholder.

WBC would later on allow Zhong to take advantage of a defense against a boxer of his choice but that would end up being scrapped and Cuello finally being given the opportunity he should have gotten much earlier.

Xiong Zhao Zhong

He was originally a WBC regional champion in the Light Flyweight division.  He had won the WBC Silver Light Flyweight hardware from Osvaldo “Chucky” Razon of Mexico via 12-round Unanimous Decision on June 16, 2012.  However, when the opportunity to fight for the vacant WBC Minimumweight title on November 24, 2012 in his hometown of Kunming, China was presented to him, he moved down to 105-pounds.

He would end up winning the title against Javier Martinez” Demonio” Resendiz of Mexico City, Mexico.  Now, he is mandated to defend his title for the first time against the Filipino whirlwind.





Cuello obviously has the superiority in all aspects.  Even though Zhong is older by four years at 30 years of age, he is the more experienced fighter with 43 fights to his credit compared to the defending champion’s only 25 fights.  His professional career has stretched to almost nine years while the latter’s has only extended to barely seven years so far.  This is a very significant advantage because the number of fights and the years in the sport would really prove to be defining factors when it comes to ring endurance and flexibility.

Also, he has fought eight times outside of the Philippines in four different nations (USA, Japan, Thailand, Mexico) while Zhong has only appeared in fights abroad only thrice (all in Japan) with most of his fights being held in his native country.  This may also play a vital role with regard to how both opponents will perform on foreign soil in front of a large audience of varied nationalities and in the midst of the pressure of a grander stage.

They would be relatively even in terms of experience fighting different foreign boxers though.  Both of them have faced 14 different races although Cuello would have a clear advantage taking into account his success tally with 13 out of 14 wins against Zhong’s lesser 10 out of 14 victories against foreign foes.  For sure, the number of fights or the level of exposure against boxers with contrasting styles in the ring from other countries on top of the win-loss-draw record that they take pride in against them will determine who will be more adaptable and versatile.


Although both combatants have knockout capabilities, the numbers above clearly show that the harder and the bigger puncher is Cuello with 64% or 21 of his 33 wins coming by way of knockout versus Zhong’s numbers with 55% or 11 out of his 20 wins.

Physical Advantages:

If Cuello would be able to capitalize on his 3-inch height and 3 1/2-inch reach advantage to the fullest, then he should give the defending champion serious problems in the fight considering that he is the more mobile and the quicker between them.



Denver Cuello is a very technically-aggressive fighter who has excellent reflexes in the ring.  He throws his left straights very quickly and often and is able to step in and out with blazing speed.  The punches that he is widely notorious for would  be his lethal left hook and his sneaky left uppercut; punches that he can throw at will at any point in a fight.  He is almost always able to find success in unleashing these shots in the majority of his ring conquests.  If he would be able to land these vicious blows with effectiveness, force and frequency; he might be able to make quick work of his opponent come fight night.

Add to his arsenal his world-class footwork and lateral movements too.  He is easily able to avoid counter-punches either by stepping back or going side to side and moving right back in within seconds just in time to connect with his own.  He has very swift and educated right jabs, which do not only measure distance between him and his opponent but are released with the intention to hurt.  Lastly,he moves his head so well so as not to get nailed very often and throws combinations to upstairs and downstairs to overwhelm and confuse his opponent.

Xiong Zhao Zhong is a very determined and busy fighter in the ring.  He does not know of any other directions or movements but to go forward and to follow his opponents wherever they go.  His work rate would absolutely make Cuello busy and on his toes all night long.

He loves throwing right jabs to the body given the fact that he is always the shorter fighter. He almost always targets their breadbaskets in order to soften them up and eventually break them down.  His best punch would be his hooks.



Denver Cuello has the tendency to showboat when he is ahead or when he clearly sees he can steamroll on his opponent and he has the upper hand in the fight. While this is only a sign of self-esteem and positive thinking, he usually makes the wrong move of lowering his guard. Too much confidence might put him in trouble once he gets hit by a hard shot that he does not see or he would not expect coming.

Also, he has to work on protecting his face when he is in a heated exchange or when he is peppering his cornered opponents with a flurry of punches.  It is a good thing Zhong is not a counter-punching specialist.  However, if he faces a skillful counterpuncher in the future, that person might see an opening he can take advantage of to come back with his own. A punch or two can always change the course or outcome of any fight and he should always keep that in his mind when in the ring with the champion.

Xiong Zhao Zhong sometimes or more often than not attacks with his head first.  He might not want to do this especially when the third man in the ring is honest, experienced and does not tolerate such tactic.  He also has the habit of pushing his opponent when he cannot connect in close quarters even when there is no clinching involved.  Once again, this might be a technique that might cost him a point if he does it too frequently to a fault.

He is a very limited boxer too.  Although he is strong and productive, he gets hit more often and does poorly with footwork.  This might be his weak points against an equally-busy and volume puncher like Cuello.



For Denver Cuello to win:

  1. He should never, not even once, underestimate Zhong despite his physical advantages and edge in experience.  The defending champion packs a punch in his fists and carelessness or overconfidence might take its toll on him if he abandons his defense and showboats excessively.
  2. He should first size up his opponent in the first few rounds to determine what his tendencies in the ring are and what weaknesses he can exploit in the succeeding frames.  Going at the champion right off the bat just to knock him out early in the fight might not prove effective. The Chinese is known for going the full route and yet maintaining the same energy and aggressiveness that he had in the first round.  Regardless of his excellent condition, Cuello might never know if his endurance would fail him in the fight or not so he should take his time and just do what he does best — breaking down his opponents.  If the knockout comes, it will present itself at the perfect time and in the right situation.  He should not waste valuable energy by throwing haymakers in the air.
  3. Showboating is a big mistake.  Zhong is not known to get intimidated easily even by taller and bigger opponents as proven by his previous fights.  He should never lower his guard when they get to a toe-to-toe battle.
  4. Zhong is shorter and loves ducking low to avoid overhand punches.  He should utilize his vaunted uppercuts to hit the face and his punishing hooks to go to the body.
  5. He should make use of his excellent footwork and ring generalship to find spots where he can land his feared left hooks and left uppercuts on.  He should do this with consistency while moving his head in the process.  Zhong is quite easy to hit as he does not move that much so a well-placed Sunday punch will certainly do the trick.

For Xiong Zhao Zhong to win:

  1. Cuello is not a steady target.  He also has the longer reach and is the taller opponent.  He must find a way to get inside to invest in body punches without getting hit that much in return.  Better yet, although this might totally be against his preference as a go-forward fighter, he might want to resort to waiting for Cuello to come to him so he can shorten the distance and land his own barrage.  
  2. Cuello is as aggressive as he is, if not more.  However, he has to keep the Filipino behind his jabs while fighting in retreat.  Although side-stepping and moving laterally is a better game plan, it is just not what he can do and is comfortable with and he might just lose his balance and get knocked out cold.
  3. He should always avoid Cuello’s left hook by ducking low and his favorite punches, the uppercuts by stepping out or back far enough not to be caught.  If he gets clocked clean by any of these varieties, it is all over for him.
  4. The major key to his victory over the Filipino is to box.  The only problem though is that it is just not who he is.  Nevertheless, if he finds a viable way, then he should do it effectively while working under his opponent’s pressure.



Zhong is a very determined fighter.  Irrespective of the fact that his title was a gift championship in a well-orchestrated and executed venture of crowning China’s first world champion, he makes up for however he got his WBC belt by giving it all in the ring and entertaining the fans in attendance.

However, although it may be hard to swallow for his countrymen who will surely storm the gates of the World Trade Center to root for him, his reign as the champion ends on Friday (Saturday in the Philippines).  This is Cuello’s installment as the WBC Minimumweight champion that has long been overdue.  He will definitely step in the ring the hungrier, the stronger, the more prepared, and the more skilled and talented fighter.  He simply has all the essentials of winning on his side and all the advantages to his favor.

Zhong would be able to do well in the first rounds, thanks to his conditioning, mental toughness and bravery but Cuello would be too good for him.  He would end up seeing himself eating a lot of punches from different angles and not being able to hit back clean with his own. Before he could come back, Cuello would have already moved away to avoid an incoming onslaught.  In the end, too much punishment would convince the assigned referee to end the one-sided beating in the seventh round.







Myron Sta. Ana


Myron Sta. Ana is the Founder, Publisher and Executive Editor of Mandirigmang-Pinoy.com. He is also an entrepreneur, freelance corporate trainer, learning and development consultant, motivational speaker, team building facilitator, boxing writer and events host by profession. For inquiries and clarifications, you may contact him at myronsta.ana@mandirigmang-pinoy.com or Myronosophies@hotmail.com