Monday, March 20, 2023  |


Zhakiyanov upsets Warren, Easter Jr. dominates Cruz over 12


Zhanat Zhakiyanov got up from two opening-round knockdowns to outwork and upset defending WBA bantamweight titleholder Rau’shee Warren via split decision on Friday in Toledo, Ohio.

The awkwardly aggressive 28-year-old Kazakhstan native won by scores of 116-110 and 115-111, with a 115-111 tally going to Warren (14-2, 4 knockouts), who entered the bout as THE RING’s No. 2-rated bantamweight.  Zhakiyanov (27-1, 18 KOs), who is promoted by former junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton, was not rated by THE RING going into Friday’s fight.

Zhakiyanov appeared unhurt following both first-round knock downs and quickly went about his job of pressuring the three-time U.S. Olympian and 2007 world amateur champ. Zhakiyanov landed lead right hands as he backed up a listless-looking Warren and often pounded home left hooks when he got the Cincinnati native’s back to the ropes. The 29-year-old Ohioan dug deep and fought back as best he could in spots during the second half of the bout but he appeared to tire down the stretch.

Warren was attempting to make the first defense of the WBA title he won from Juan Carlos Payano last June.

In the main event of the Premier Boxing Champions event that was co-promoted by four-division beltholder Adrian Broner, 26-year-old Toledo native Robert Easter Jr. defended his IBF lightweight belt for the first time with a lop-sided unanimous decision over unworthy title-challenger Luis Cruz. Easter, who drew more than 8,000 fans to the Huntington Center, won by scores of 119-106, 118-107 and 117-108.

Easter (19-0, KOs), who scored knockdowns in Rounds 10, 11 and 12, put his 5-foot-11 height and 76-inch wingspan to use by keeping Cruz at the end of his jab during the first five rounds, while moving and occasionally pausing to drop fast one-two combinations. In Rounds 6 and 7, Easter set about breaking down Cruz (22-5-1, 16 KOs), forcing the 31-year-old former prospect from Puerto Rico into the ropes and unloading with power punches.

Easter, who won his IBF title with a thrilling split decision over top-rated (then-undefeated) Richard Commey last September, patiently stalked Cruz behind a high guard and power jab during in Rounds 8 and 9 before dropping the game-but-overmatched Cruz with a straight right in Round 10 and with a short cross followed by a hook at the end of Round 11.

Easter, to his credit, gunned for the stoppage in Round 12 and almost had it, dropping Cruz a third time near the end of the round, but the brave and gritty Boricua refused to be stopped.

The fights were televised on BounceTV in the U.S. and on BoxNation in the U.K.