The Bantamweight division has been on of the sports most over-looked divisions in recent years, despite having had world champions all over the planet. The long reigning Shinsuke Yamanaka has proven to be the top guy in the division, with notable wins over a who's who of contenders like Vic Darchinyan, Tomas Rojas, Malcolm Tunacao, Suriyan Sor Rungvisai, Anselmo Moreno and Liborio Solis, but Yamanaka aside the division seems to lack in star power. The other champions in the division, like Marlon Tapales and Lee Haskins, are very good fighters but they lack the fan base to create a huge buzz at home, despite both having been in some sensational fight. Despite being an over-looked division it does give us some interesting match ups, one of which is set to take place his coming Friday in Ohio.
The bout in question sees WBA “super” champion Rau'shee Warren (14-1-0-1, 4) defending his title against Kazakh puncher Zhanat Zhakiyanov (26-1, 18) in a speed Vs power bout.
Warren, a former 3-time US Olympian, won the title last year with a razor thin win over Juanm Carlos Payano and will be looking to make his first defense and solidify his standing as a world class fighter.
In the ring Warren really is a speed king with speed to burn in both his hands and his feet. He's not a puncher but he certainly hits harder than his record suggests, with knockdowns against a number of fighters that have seen the final bell with him. Whilst many of those knockdowns will be down to his speed, rather than power, he certainly can hurt fighters.
Not only is Warren fast but he's also a very highly skilled fighter, as any 3-time Olympian would be. He might not have shone at the Olympics, losing in his first bout at all 3 Games, but he did accomplish a lot of other things in the unpaid ranks, including winning a gold at the 2007 and a bronze at the 2005 World Amateur Championships. He isn't just skilled but has also began to show his adaptive ability and has transitioned from his amateur style to a professional style, though it did take a while for him to do that whilst saw him struggle in the early part of his career.
Zhakiyanov is a much more “agricultural” fighter. He's a big, strong, tough and powerful Bantamweight who has scored some brilliant knockouts during his career, with his 5th round KO against Karim Guerfi being a frightening shot. That KO came during a long run of stoppages from the Kazakh, who stopped 12 foes in row from May 2011 to May 2015. Despite that impressive stat there was little in terms of quality in there, with Guerfi being the best of the names.
That KO run of the Kazakh came to an end last year, when he claimed a split decision win over Yonfrez Parejo for the interim title in Monaco, and Zhakiyanov certainly didn't shine there, in fact he didn't shine at all in 2016 with his only other bout being a less than great win over Hector Roland Gusman, a bout in which he was dropped. It was a year in which Zhakiyanov's lack of speed and predictability saw him really exposed as little more than a limited puncher.
With his power Zhakiyanov always has a chance, if he catches a fighter clean he can put their lights out. Landing clean is however a big ask, especially against a fighter like Warren who is illusive, smart and fast. We suspect the speed and skills of Warren will be the difference here with Zhakiyanov being unable to land his home run punch, which he would need to connect with here to have any chance at all. With Zhakiyanov being as clumsy as he is we wouldn't be that shocked to see a hungry Warren make a statement and actually see off a tiring Zhakiyanov in the later rounds.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.