Carlos "The Solution" Morales (17-2-3, 6 KOs) scored a sixth-round technical unanimous decision victory against Dardan Zenunaj (14-4, 11 KOs) of Los Angeles, Calif. to win the vacant NABA Super Featherweight Title in the scheduled 10-round main event of Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif. Morales, who also fights out of Los Angeles, suffered a bad cut above his right eye due to an accidental headbutt that forced the fight to be stopped at the third second of the sixth-round. Morales outboxed the rugged Zenunaj enough for all judges to score the fight 59-56 in his favor. Photos by Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos.
"This was not my decision," said 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 headbutting me. It's my job to get in there in fight, but the doctor stopped it."
"Morales wanted this fight to stop," said Zenunaj. "He was getting really tired, and I was starting to tag him. I often look better at the end of the fight, so it was obvious that he wanted it to stop. When he was getting looked at by the doctor, it seemed as if he wanted out. He was happy after."
In the co-main event, Raul "El Cugar" Curiel (2-0, 1 KO) of Tamaulipas, Mexico blasted Israel Villela (6-8, 2 KOs) via fourth-round knockout in a scheduled four-round welterweight fight. Curiel was too much for the much smaller native of Mexico City, Mexico. In the third round, Curiel scored a vicious knockdown that nearly stopped Villela then and there. Curiel, not wanting to miss out on scoring his first knockout, stopped Villela at 2:23 seconds of the following round.
"After a few months away, I'm just grateful I can come back and fight before all of my fans and supporters," said Curiel. "We had a minor setback this year, but hopefully I'll be back in January. The plan is to start adding more rounds and moving up the division."
Marlen Esparza (4-0), the 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist of Houston, Texas, defeated Karla Valenzuela (3-17-3, 1 KO) via unanimous decision through six rounds of super flyweight action. Esparza was aggressive in every round, walking the native of Gomez Palacio, Mexico with a high guard before unleashing punishing shots to the body. Esparza looked for the knockout in the final round, but was unable to and won with three scores of 60-54.
"I felt a bit nervous in awkward in there," said Esparza. "That's because she would often dip her head, which caused the headbutts when I was trying to land hooks. But I saw it as a perfect opportunity to work on my straight punches. It was also a chance to work on my body shots, which I really liked in there."
North Hollywood's Ferdinand Kerobyan (7-0, 4 KOs) stopped Tavorus Teague (4-19-2, 3 KOs) of Paramount, Calif. in the fourth round of a scheduled four-round super welterweight fight. Kerobyan, a strong puncher with a stellar amateur background, used hard and quick combinations to stop Teague at 1:37 of the fourth round.
"I took my time. I didn't want to rush into anything," said Kerobyan. "But eventually I wore him down. I feel great. I got fans coming from all over to watch me fight. Next year, I'm going to make some news and hopefully fight for a world title."
Joet Gonzalez (18-0, 10 KOs), the 126-pound contender of Glendora, Calif. who is quickly rising to the top of the featherweight division, scored a dominant third-round knockout win against Isao Carranza (15-11-1, 8 KOs) of Mexico City, Mexico in a clash that was initially scheduled for eight rounds. After a feel-out first round, Gonzalez used a high-guard stance and power punches to the body and head to stop Carranza via hook to the body at 2:59 of the third round.
"I knew he [Carranza] had fought tough opponents before, especially at bantamweight," said Gonzalez. "He surprised me in the first round. His hands seemed heavy for a guy who was moving up a few divisions. But I got used to it, started landing my punches, and got him out in three rounds."
Jonathan Navarro (12-0, 6 KOs), the rising super lightweight prospect of East Los Angeles, California, scored a unanimous decision victory against Nicaragua's Nelson Lara (17-9-5, 9 KOs) over eight rounds of welterweight action. Navarro and Lara fought toe-to-toe in each round, but Navarro got the best of nearly all exchanges.
"Lara was a good, hard opponent," said Navarro. "He can take a punch. I went toe-to-toe in each round with him because I wanted to show that I could take a punch."
In the opening bout of the night, San Antonio's Joshua "The Professor" Franco (13-0, 6 KOs) defeated Carlos Maldonado (9-2, 7 KOs) of Los Angeles, California via eight-round unanimous decision. Franco intelligently outboxed Maldonado to win with three scores of 80-72.
"I feel great about this win," said Franco. "He [Maldonado] is a tough guy with a good record, so I had to be cautious in there. It also feels good to end the year on a great note, and I can now spend time with my family. Next year, I'll be moving up to ten rounds and maybe even a world title."
Coachella, Calif.'s Ryan Caballero (4-0, 2 KOs), the younger brother of former IBF Bantamweight World Champion Randy Caballero, scored a first-round knockout victory against Franco Gutierrez (1-1) of Agua Prieta, Mexico in a scheduled four-round featherweight fight.