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Paul Fleming returns with dominant win over Panya Uthok, wants WBO champ Masayuki Ito next

Anthony Cocks

Australian-based boxing journalist Anthony Cocks has been covering the sport for over 15 years for various print and online publications. He refuses to believe that Roberto Duran ever lost to Tommy Hearns and says that Jeff Fenech would destroy Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on the same night.

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Australian boxing’s best kept secret super featherweight contender Paul ‘Showtime’ Fleming 26-0 (17) overcame two busted mitts to hand former two-time world champion Panya Uthok 52-6 (35) of Thailand an eight-round beatdown at the Emporium in Bankstown, Sydney, NSW on Friday night on MJA Platinum’s ‘Inception’ show.

Despite a year on the sidelines the 30-year-old southpaw showed no signs of rust, pitching a virtual shutout to win by scores of 80-72, 80-72 and 79-73.

“We knew he was going to come in tough and put on a hard show,” said Fleming. “I think I controlled the fight. I hurt my right hand in about the fourth or fifth and then I hurt my left hand in the sixth or seventh.

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“Uthok came in with his head down and I was bouncing shots off his forehead. Anyone who knows boxing knows that’s one of hardest parts of the body to hit so both my hands are busted up.”

The classy boxer-puncher knows that now is the time for him to capitalise on his unlimited potential.

“I don’t drink or smoke or do drugs. My age says 30 but I still feel like I’m 22,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to 2019. Mike Altamura has got some big things planned and I just can’t wait to get back in the ring and show the world what I’ve got.”

The Top Rank-promoted fighter is aiming for a world title shot in 2019 with WBO 130-pound champion Masayuki Ito 24-1-1 (12) of Japan firmly in his sights.

“If this Japanese kid is everything he’s cracked up to be, we might have an entertaining fight on our hands,” said Fleming in the lead-up to the Uthok fight.

“[But] if he’s anything less, I’ll put him away the same way I did [Vergil] Puton. It’s as simple as that.”

Both Fleming and his trainer Billy Hussein believe they have the measure of Ito, who won the vacant WBO strap with a 12-round point victory over Puerto Rico’s Christopher Diaz 24-1 (16) in Kissimmee, Florida last July.

“If the Ito fight does happen I won’t be sitting on the outside waiting for him to throw, I’ll be using my speed and giving him those southpaw angles and making him work every minute of the fight,” Fleming said.

“The champion we’re gunning for is Masayuki Ito, the Japanese, and I really believe Paul can do something against him,” said coach Hussein.

Hussein regards Fleming as a genuine world title threat and says that the kid originally from the cane-cutting town of Tully in Far North Queensland can hang with any of the big names at 130-pounds on his day.

“I’m not afraid of putting him in with any of the champions,” Hussein said. “Tevin Farmer or Ito, any of these guys. I don’t like the Gervonta Davis fight… but every other fighter I’m happy to put him in with.”

Meanwhile Ito, 27, will make the first defence of his world title when he takes on undefeated Russian Evgeny ‘Happy Gilmore’ Chuprakov 20-0 (10) at the Ota-City Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan on December 30.

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