TOLEDO, OH - In the co-main event, three-time U.S. Olympian Rau'shee Warren (14-2, 4 KOs) came out strong from the opening bell as he utilized his hand speed and power by knocking Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18 KOs) of Kazakhstan not once, but twice. Photos by Leo Wilson/PBC.
Warren, who was defending his bantamweight title for the first time, could not finish the fight in the first round despite throwing a flurry of unanswered punches following the two knockdowns.
The tables started to turn in favor of Zhakiyanov in the third round as he threw several consecutive uppercuts, pressuring Warren against the ropes. He threw two right hooks that knocked Warren to the canvas, but referee Gary Rosato ruled it a slip.
Trained and promoted by former unified world champion Ricky Hatton, Zhakiyanov applied pressure throughout the middle rounds, wearing Warren down.
But the Cincinnati-native seemed to have gotten a second wind to kick-off the eighth round as he turned up the heat with one minute to go. Zhakiyanov continued to put pressure on Warren and use his strength.
The fight was action packed from start to finish, but it was the Kazakh who earned the split decision victory with scores of 116-110, 115-111 for Zhakiyanov and 115-111 Warren.
"I knew at the end of the fight that I deserved to win, but because of where we were, we weren't sure if the judges would give it to us. So that surprised us, but not that I won the fight. I was hurt early, but I outworked him in almost every round after that and was the stronger fighter in the end," Zhakiyanov said.
"The knockdowns shocked me, but (trainer and promoter, former two-division world champion) Ricky Hatton kept me level-headed, telling me the adjustments I had to make. Once I was able to get inside and force the action, I saw (Warren's) energy level drop.
"We are grateful that he gave us the opportunity to fight for the world title. It's an amazing feeling to win that belt. He feels like he won the fight and wants the rematch. We can definitely talk about doing that. I've fought everywhere in the world and don't back down from any challenge."