The Bantamweight division is current a mess thanks the WBC's slow decision to tidy up their title situation, as well as the WBA's multiple title situation. Today however we saw the weight class get tidied up a little bit as WBA “super” champion Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-2, 18) [Жанат Ескендирулы Жакиянов] took on IBF champion Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9) in a unification bout, that helped take one of the titles from the confusing mix of belts.
The fight started in a very messy fashion with Zhakiyanov pressing the action and Burnett trying to fight off the back foot. It was a round full of holding, wrestling and grappling, though there was moments where the fighters did separate and Burnett landed some lovely eye catching shots which were the cleanest blows of the round.
The close, messy, action continued through much of the fight, with rounds 2, 3, 4 and 5 all pretty much identical to each other. They all saw Zhakiyanov pressing the action and the two fighters trading blows between in some messy yet exciting action that seemed to show Burnett was able to fight Zhakiyanov's fight and have success with it, there was however little to separate the men and neither looked capable of hurting the other.
In round 6 we saw a slight change as Burnett looked to have injured his shoulder at one point, before gritting his teeth and resuming the contest, with Zhakiyanov all over him. It was one of the best rounds for the Kazakh, despite some spirited efforts from Burnett late on, and it looked like the momentum was starting to swing n favour of Zhakiyanov. Sadly for the Kazakh the injury to Burnett wasn't as bad as it first seemed and he looked to be just fine over rounds 7 and 8.
Amazingly in round 9 Burnett changed his tactics, got on to his toes and really managed to make life easy for himself as he established some distance and boxed his fight, for the first time in the fight. It was a style that he likely would have wanted to use from the start of the fight, but couldn't due to Zhakiyanov's pressure, but was now able too with the Kazakh slowing down. It was a tactic Burnett used through rounds 10 and 11 to clearly put himself in charge of the bout, before going toe-to-toe in a thrilling 12th round. It was a perfect finish to the fight which had been incredibly tough for the fighters.
At the end of 12 rounds it seemed like a close, but clear, win for Burnett, though the judges didn't even seem to see the bout as competitive scoring it 119-109, 118-110 and 116-112 for Burnett, making it look relatively one sided when it really hadn't been.
With the IBF and WBA titles now around his waist the future looks really interesting for Burnett, and he does have a lot going for him, but this was a draining war and he will be looking to avoid those in the future if he's going to have a lengthy reign. For Zhakiyanov the loss ends his reign, but he certainly didn't shame himself, and he should remain in the title mix going forward.
So far this year we've not seen many title changes but late on Friday we did see one title change, as 3-time American Olympian Rau'shee Warren (14-2-0-1, 4) suffered a shock loss to Kazakh pressure fighter Zhanat Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18), and claimed the WBA Bantamweight Super title.
The start of the fight was a nightmare for Zhakiyanov, who was dropped twice in the opening round giving Warren a 10-7 opening round. It seemed like Warren's speed and skills would be too much for the relatively basic Zhakiyanov. Amazingly though Warren failed to build on the good start as Zhakiyanov managed to regroup and have a solid second round, though, again, it was a round that Warren took.
From round 3 onwards the bout seemed to turn, with Zhakiyanov applying intense and breaking through the guard of Warren with regularity. The pressure seemed to have immediate effect and he was unlucky to not to have a KD scored in his favour late in the round.
Warren was again roughed up in rounds 4, 5 and 6 as Zhakiyanov continued to force the action and and really trouble Warren, who continually backed up and invited the pressure from the challenger. It was easy to forget the 10-7 first round and by the end of round 6 it was almost impossible to make a case for Warren being in the lead. Despite being in the lead ZZ seemed to be slowing down and in round 8 Warren began to take advantage of Zhakiyanov's slowing down and stood his ground in the opening minute. Despite the moments of success Warren failed to build on it and quickly let Zhakiyanov push him backwards.
Warren managed to have his moments in the final rounds, though began to look more and more tired with Zhakiyanov seemingly aware that he may need to have a huge finish to impress the judges. He was tired, as would be expected given the huge amount of work he had put in, but his desire continued to show through as he continued to apply the pressure.
With both men standing at the end of 12 rounds the bout went to the scorecards and given the amazing start for Warren it was clear the cards would be close, with Zhakiyanov needing to make up for the 10-7 opening round. The judges were split though thankfully they made the right decision with two of them favouring the Kazakh, who's desire and will to win earned him the victory on two of the cards.
Earlier today in Monaco fans had a real treat with a Golden Gloves promoted card in Monte Carlo. One of the headline bouts of the card featured Kazakhstan's Zhanat Zhakiyanov (26-1, 18), who took on Venezuela's talented Yonfrez Parejo (17-2-1, 8), who was looking to defend the WBA interim Bantamweight title. Sadly for Parejo he was unable to over-come "ZZ" in what was a very competitive and well matched bout.
The fight started very well for the defending champion who used his movement and jab early on to establish his style of fight. It was the start that was expected of the champion and one that really saw him fight to his strengths and make Zhakiyanov look like the limited fighter that we'd seen numerous times before.
The champion's early work had established him the lead during the early rounds however in round Zhakiyanov began to up the pressure cause Parejo some trouble. Those troubles continued into rounds 5 and 6 as the challenger began to find his range and get to a slowing Parejo. It was earlier than expected for Zhakiyanov to get success, but it did show that he had the style to really trouble Parejo.
With Zhakiyanov coming back into the fight it was an interesting middle section of the fight as each guy had their successes in what was a competitive section of the fight. It seemed that Parejo had just done enough, with his movement and range control, to take a good portion of the middle rounds but they were close and sharing them between the two fighters was certainly not out of the question.
In the later rounds it seemed that Zhakiyanov was the one pushing the action, trying to over-turn the slight disadvantage he had faced in the middle rounds. It seemed he did just enough but the fight could easily have been scored any which way with the sheer number of competitive rounds.
The judges seemed to agree that it was close, though did split the two men with two of the judges favouring the challenger, with scores of 113-115 and 113-116 to Zahkiyanov whilst the dissenting judge had it 116-112 to Parejo, all reasonable scores for what was a close bout, though one that we thought Parejo perhaps deserved.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.