By Keith Idec
Zhanat Zhakiyanov pulled off a remarkable comeback Friday night.
The courageous contender from Kazakhstan survived two first-round knockdowns to upset Rau’shee Warren by split decision in their 12-round fight for Warren’s WBA/IBO super world bantamweight championships in Toledo, Ohio. Warren was about a 5-1 favorite entering their title fight, which Bounce TV broadcast from Huntington Center.
Judges John Stewart (115-111) and Ryan Kennedy (116-110) scored the fight for Zhakiyanov (26-1, 18 KOs), who’s trained and managed by Ricky Hatton. Larry Hazzard Jr. scored the bout 115-111 for Warren (14-2, 4 KOs, 1 NC), a three-time Olympian from Cincinnati.
Warren, though not known for his power, appeared well on his way to a first-round knockout Friday night. The defending champion knocked down Zhakiyanov twice in that round, but a stunned Zhakiyanov showed resilience in reaching the end of the round.
Warren won the second round, too, but Zhakiyanov changed the course of the action when he hit Warren with back-to-back right hands late in the third round. A buzzed Warren went to the canvas a few seconds later, but referee Gary Rosato ruled that Zhakiyanov pushed Warren to the canvas.
The rugged Zhakiyanov, fully recovered from Warren’s first-round onslaught, stalked Warren for much of the rest of the fight. Zhakiyanov often backed up Warren into the ropes and attacked his body, hitting him with hard shots that kept the southpaw from moving the way he wanted.
Bleeding from his nose for much of the fight, Warren struggled to keep the relentless Zhakiyanov off of him. Zhakiyanov didn’t score a knockdown, yet seemed to build a lead as the fight progressed, even though he had lost the first round 10-7.
The 29-year-old Warren lost in the first defense of a 118-pound championship he won from Miami’s Juan Carlos Payano (18-1, 9 KOs) in his previous fight. Warren topped Payano by majority decision June 18 in Chicago after losing a split decision to Payano in their first fight 10 months earlier in Winter Park, Florida.
In the first televised fight Friday night, junior middleweight prospect Terrell Gausha overcame a knockdown to beat Luis Hernandez by unanimous decision in a 10-rounder.
Gausha won by large margins on all three scorecards (98-90, 98-90, 97-91).
Cleveland’s Gausha, a 2012 Olympian, improved to 20-0 (9 KOs). Puerto Rico’s Hernandez, who has lost three of his past five fights, fell to 15-4 (8 KOs).
Hernandez knocked down Gausha with a right hand to the side of his side in the third round. Gausha got up, held at times and made it to the end of the round, despite that he got dropped with about 2:10 left in it.
Gausha got back into the fight in the fifth round and regained the point he lost for the knockdown in the seventh round. Referee Jim Howe deducted a point from Hernandez for landing low blows twice in that round.
The point deduction frustrated Hernandez, who began talking trash to Gausha once the action resumed. Gausha also appeared to buzz Hernandez with a right hand in the ninth round, which backed Hernandez into the ropes.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.