In the most high-profile fight of his career to date, monster heavyweight prospect Taishan Dong of China improved to 4-0 against Jamal Woods on the Saul Alvarez-James Kirkland undercard at Minute Maid Stadium in Houston. It's unusual for a four-round fighter with less than five professional bouts to get the kind of attention Dong is receiving.
But Dong is hardly your standard-issue heavyweight prospect. A well-proportioned and chiseled 7-footer, Dong is anxious to become the mainstream star who helps bring professional boxing to the forefront in the massive Chinese market.
And the hunger for the next larger-than-life star at heavyweight is always strong. So anytime an attention-grabbing prospect like Dong emerges, it's inevitable that people take note.
Unfortunately, the story out of Houston Saturday night will hardly keep Dong's momentum surging forward. Facing an opponent with a 6-18-3 record, Dong struggled, coming away with a majority decision.
ESPN.com's Dan Rafael was less-than-glowing in his assessment on twitter:
David P. Greisman on Boxing Scene described an awkward slugfest, with Dong throwing "amatuerish arm punches."
It would be unfair to write Dong off completely based upon his performance in just his fourth professional fight. But Woods is not the sort of guy who should give problems to a true future heavyweight star.
At the same time, four rounds is not a lot of time to get going, especially for a gigantic physical specimen like Dong. He won by scores of 40-36 and 39-37, per BoxRec, with one judge scoring the fight 38 each. So it's not like he stunk the joint up.
Dong took some big punches from a big, 6'3", 250-pound heavyweight. There was no way that Dong was going to fight for long at heavyweight without getting hit with some decent punches, so it might not be a disaster if it happened early and in a bout that he was able to hang on and win.
His trainer, the very experienced Buddy McGirt, expressed satisfaction with his performance (via the interview on YouTube included here):
Woods does have over five times as many bouts as Dong, even if they haven't been against substantial opposition.
I try not to be a cynic as I write about the noble sport of prizefighting. So maybe Dong really could be the kind of heavyweight that eventually electrifies huge crowds.
But after Saturday night, he's still got a lot to prove before he can be considered a true contender.