Ringside at Fantasy Springs: Morales Tops Zenunaj

INDIO, Calif.-A gash over the eye of Carlos Morales ended a fight prematurely but saw him capture the vacant NABA super featherweight title by technical decision over Dardan Zenunaj on Thursday.

Though it only lasted less than seven rounds Morales (17-2-3, 6 KOs) and Zenunaj (14-4, 11 KOs) did a lot of talking and mugging with each other that caused bad blood and an accidental head butt. It was the main event at Fantasy Springs Casino and televised by ESPN.

Morales used movement and slick pot shots that rocked Zenunaj every round but it was not enough to stop the fighter from Kosovo chasing at full speed. Once in a while he connected but not enough to convince the judges who all scored the abbreviated fight 59-56 for Morales.

“I could not see, and the doctor decided to end the fight. I felt I won the rounds, though (Zenunaj) was fighting dirty and head butting me,” said Morales. “It’s my job to get in there and fight, but the doctor stopped it.”

Zenunaj was unhappy with the outcome.

“He (Morales) was getting really tired, and I was starting to tag him. I often look better at the end of the fight,” said Zenunaj. “So it was obvious that he wanted it to stop.”

Morales picks up the NABA super featherweight title.

Mexican Olympian

Mexican Olympian Raul Curiel (2-0) showed off his accuracy and combinations aplenty on fellow Mexican Israel Villela (6-8). Though the first round saw both exchange freely, by the end of the second round several uppercuts had Villela’s head going back and forth like a wobble doll. By the third round the referee could have stopped the fight or better yet Villela’s corner, but the fight was allowed to continue. It wasn’t until 2:30 of the fourth round that Villela’s corner stopped the fight ending the beating by Curiel.

“I’m just grateful I can come back and fight before all of my fans and supporters,” said Curiel. “The plan is to start adding more rounds and moving up the division.”

Female Olympian

Former U.S. Olympian Marlen Esparza (4-0) dominated Mexico’s Karla Valenzuela (3-17-3) for all six two-minute rounds in their flyweight bout. Esparza was sharp and the most comfortable she’s been as a professional, firing three-punch combinations freely throughout the fight. Though she snapped the head back of Valenzuela numerous times she was not close to flooring the gritty Mexican girl. However the body shots in the fifth round nearly did the job. All three judges scored every round in favor of Houston’s Esparza who won 60-54 on all three cards.

“I felt a bit nervous and awkward in there,” said Esparza. whose last scheduled fight was postponed. “It was also a chance to work on my body shots, which I really liked in there.”

Other Bouts

North Hollywood’s Ferdinand Kerobyan (7-0, 4 KOs) trapped Paramount’s Tavorus Teague in the corner and unleashed a barrage of blows that forced the fight to be stopped at 1:37 of the fourth and final round of the welterweight fight.

Glendora’s Joet Gonzalez (18-0, 10 KOs) needed less than three rounds to find the openings for some deadly body shots that ended the night for Mexico’s Isao Carranza (15-11-1, 8 KOs). The featherweight bout was stopped at 2:59 of the third round when Gonzalez floored Carranza with a right to the body.

East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro (12-0, 6 KOs) started quickly against Mexican veteran Nelson Lara (17-9-5, 9 KOs) but found it getting harder and harder as the rounds mounted. By the eighth and final round Lara was connecting heavily on Navarro who had built an early lead in the fight. No knockdowns were scored in the slugfest with two judges scoring 80-72 and a third 79-73 for Navarro.

San Antonio’s Joshua Franco (13-0, 6 KOs) pounded out a victory over Carlos Maldonado (9-2,7 KOs) after eight rounds in a super flyweight clash. Franco trains in Riverside with Robert Garcia and knows how to win a fight by decision. All three judges scored it 80-72 for Franco.

Ryan Caballero (4-0, 2 KOs) blasted out Franco Gutierrez (1-1) in 34 seconds of the first round to win the featherweight fight by knockout. Caballero is the younger brother of former bantamweight world champion Randy Caballero.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hogan Photos / GBP

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