Huntington Center in 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.
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.
"Man, I won that fight. I knocked him down, I was landing the cleaner punches and making him miss. What it is, the judges are favoring aggressive fighters, even when they ain't even landing," Warren said.
"I went through the same thing with (Juan Carlos) Payano, losing the first fight that I should've won and then getting the decision in the rematch. So now I have to prove to these judges the second time what I should've got tonight. Of course I want that rematch. I want it next, I want my world titles back.
"Obviously you can always do more. We're gonna go back, look at what we could've done differently and make sure the judges don't take it from me no more."