ZHAKIYANOV UPSETS WARREN — Zhanat Zhakiyanov, a well-traveled Kazakh making his U.S. debut, went into hostile territory and emerged with a piece of the world bantamweight title on Friday night at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio. In a see-saw battle that begs for a rematch, Zhakiyanov overcame two knockdowns in the opening round to score a 12-round split decision over defending IBF champion Rau’shee Warren.
Trained by former two-division world champion Ricky Hatton, Zhakiyanov (27-1) had fought in various parts of Europe plus Thailand, China, and Australia, but was completely unknown in the United States. In Cincinnati’s Warren, now 14-2 as a pro, he was meeting one of America’s most decorated amateur athletes.
Zhakiyanov followed his trainer’s game plan to the letter. “He was never going to outbox (Warren),” said Hatton after the fight, “he had to get in his chest, he had to mug him and make it a brawl.”
Warren wasn’t happy with the decision. His lone previous setback, to Juan Carlos Payano, was also a split decision and Warren avenged that defeat in their rematch.
Warren-Zhakiyanov was officially the semi-main. Local product Robert Easter Jr. defended his IBF lightweight title against Puerto Rico’s Luis Cruz in the featured attraction. Easter, who was two inches taller and had a 4-inch reach advantage, took control of the fight in the sixth round and won going away while improving his ledger to 19-0. On the canvas in each of the last three rounds, Cruz (22-5-1) showed tremendous grit in making it to the final bell.
Born and bred in Toledo, Easter received a long and loud ovation from the 8,000-plus in attendance as he walked into the ring and then he rewarded the home folks with a satisfying win in his first title defense.
In the third TV fight, Cleveland’s Terrell Gausha improved to 20-0 with a unanimous decision over Puerto Rico’s Luis Hernandez in a 10-round middleweight contest. Also, Cincinnati’s Jamel Herring stopped Art Hovhanisyan after three rounds and Cleveland’s Raynell Williams scored a second round knockout over Justin Savi.
Other than Rau’shee Warren, it was a clean sweep for the Buckeye State contingent.
At the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma, fast-rising junior welterweight Ivan Baranchyk, a Brooklyn-based Ukrainian, advanced to 14-0 with a 10-round unanimous decision over Abel Ramos of Phoenix. The scores (99-91, 97-92, 97-93) didn’t do justice to Ramos (17-2-2) who went toe-to-toe with his highly touted rival in a scintillating slugfest that featured three knockdowns, two by Baranchyk. Both fighters were on the canvas in the third frame.
In the 8-round co-feature, Joseph “Mack” Williams, a light heavyweight from Far Rockaway, New York, out-worked former Dominican Olympian Lenin Castillo to earn a majority decision. Williams improved to 11-0.
In another bout of note, heavyweight James McKenzie Morrison (10-0-2, 9 KOs) dismissed disinterested Dieuly Aristilde (9-9) in the opening round. It was the eighth loss inside the distance for the 40-year-old Aristilde who bused in from Boynton Beach, Florida.
James McKenzie Morrison doesn’t have as big an upside as his half-brother Trey Lippe Morrison but will likely rake in a few good paydays before his career is finished.
Photo credit: Leo Wilson / PBC
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