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Cuello wants belt, not money

It appears that newly crowned WBC minimumweight champion Xiong Chaozhong of China wants nothing to do with No. 1 contender Denver Cuello and would rather part with at least $50,000 up to $100,000 to delay a mandatory defense.

Xiong, 30, won the vacant WBC 105-pound title via a unanimous 12-round decision over Mexico’s Javier Martinez at the Municipal Gymnasium in Kunming City, China, last Saturday with Cuello and his manager Aljoe Jaro watching intently at ringside. Cuello and Jaro left Manila for China the previous Thursday, attended the weigh-in the next day then returned home last Sunday.  Cuello was introduced at the weigh-in as the next mandatory challenger.

Jaro said Xiong’s win was convincing but pointed out that Cuello isn’t Martinez. Xiong is a 4-11 boxer-puncher with little power and an unpolished style but fights with a lot of heart. Cuello said Xiong will be lucky if he survives three rounds with him.

“I don’t know if Xiong is brittle but if Denver hits him, believe me, he’s going down,” said Jaro. “Denver will play with him, kayang-kaya. He can make it last up to five or six rounds then it’s over.”

Cuello was supposed to figure in the fight for the vacant throne but Xiong’s manager Liu Gang of Chung Wei Boxing offered a step-aside fee, reportedly $25,000, for the Filipino to allow the Chinese to fight Martinez instead. Now that Xiong is the champion, the rumor is Cuello will once again be offered a step-aside fee in the range of $50,000 to $100,000. Jaro said once is enough.

“No deal,” said Cuello. “We want the belt, not their money. They can keep their money even if they offer $100,000, we’ll refuse it. This is Denver’s chance to become a world champion. That’s important to us. We want to bring honor to our country. We agreed to the first step-aside fee because the WBC asked if we could help open the doors in China. But not a second time. I think Xiong knows if he makes his first defense of the title against Denver, his reign will be finished. He wants to choose his next challenger but the WBC has ordered a mandatory defense against Denver in 90 days.”

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Jaro said he couldn’t come to terms with Liu and the next step is to take the dispute to the WBC convention at the Grand Oasis Hotel in Cancun on Dec. 2-8. “We want the fight whether it’s in China or the Philippines,” said Jaro. “No more delay. We’ll press for Denver’s chance during the convention. We’re prepared to do a purse bid even if we know China has a lot of money. Denver doesn’t care where he fights Xiong. He’ll knock him out anywhere he wants.”

Jaro said about 1,500 fans came out to witness the fight in the 3,500-seat arena. Referee Bruce McTavish, who worked the Xiong-Martinez fight, said the crowd enthusiastically backed up the hometown hero. It was Xiong’s fifth fight that McTavish worked.

Xiong lost a decision to Daisuke Naito in a bid for the WBC flyweight title in 2009 and dropped to the 105-pound class for the chance to capture a world crown. His record shows losses to Naito, Filipino Julius Alcos, Takuya Kogawa and Shin Ono, all on points.

Against Martinez, Xiong made sure he wouldn’t be denied in his second attempt to claim a world title. American judge Herbert Minn saw it 116-114, Australian judge Brian McMahon 116-112 and Thai judge Noparat Sricharoen 119-110, all for Xiong who is called “Little Tyson” by Chinese media.

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Cuello recently completed a two-week therapy under orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Canlas’ care to strengthen his right shoulder muscle which was strained when he pounded out a win by decision over Ivan Meneses in Mexico last September. Dr. Canlas found Cuello’s right shoulder muscle to be underdeveloped because of his inclination to use the left in the ring. Dr. Canlas prescribed exercises for Cuello to build more power in his right hand. If the southpaw was deadly before, now he’s doubly lethal.

Cuello, 25, is ripe for a world title shot.  He has won his last 11 outings since losing on a controversial third round disqualification to Juan Hernandez in Mexico City two years ago. If not for the loss to Hernandez, Cuello would’ve won 28 straight. Hernandez was on the verge of losing by knockout when on his fall to the canvas, Cuello unleashed a grazing shot to the body. Referee Gerardo Venzor called it a foul blow and declared Hernandez the winner by disqualification. Hernandez was bloodied and battered when Venzor raised his arm in victory to Cuello’s dismay. The robbery prompted Cuello to negotiate a partnership with a local promotions outfit owned by Canelo Alvarez so the Filipino is protected from injustice in future Mexico fights.

Cuello’s record is 32-4-6, with 21 KOs. Jaro said he expects Cuello to fight Xiong for the WBC title by the end of February. Turning down a second step-aside fee is a strong statement that money isn’t everything in this world, that there are people who believe honor shouldn’t be compromised or abused. Jaro showed the Xiong camp that Filipinos can’t just be pushed around by waving cash in their face.

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