Sunday, October 01, 2023  |



Carlos Morales wins technical decision over Dardan Zenunaj after head-clash

Photo by Tom Hogan - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Fighters Network

Carlos Morales may have won on the scorecards Thursday night, but his sixth-round technical decision over Dardan Zenunaj at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, left many questions unanswered.

Not to mention the need for a rematch.

It was a crossroads bout between two fighters trying to get their careers on track. Morales had lost by unanimous decision to Alberto Machado in his previous fight, while Zenunaj had split his previous four bouts.

From the opening round, Morales was the more effective fighter, repeatedly connecting with straight, counter right hands to the head. During the first three rounds, Morales stunned Zenunaj a handful of times.

Momentum seemed to shift during the fourth round when an accidental clash of heads opened a significant cut over Morales’ right eye. After the ringside physician allowed the fight to continue, Zenunaj pressed the action, going on the attack and forcing Morales to fight off his back foot.

Zenunaj’s best round was the fifth, where he let his hands go and connected with more frequency as Morales’ punch output dropped.

At the start of the sixth round, the ringside physician again checked on the cut over Morales’ right eye. After consulting with the physician and Morales, referee Raul Caiz Jr. stopped the bout. Because the fight was stopped on an accidental cut, the fight went to the scorecards, where all three judges scored the bout 49-46 in favor of Morales.

Punch stat numbers showed Morales with the edge in total punches connected, 107 to Zenunaj’s 74.

Each fighter gave a different account of the result.

“He kept coming in with his head,” said Morales (17-2-3, 6 knockouts), who resides in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park. “I couldn’t continue with the fight. I was seeing double and I had blurred vision.

“He’s saying that I quit. That I did this on purpose. How can I quit when I can’t see? I can’t continue when I can’t see my opponent.”

“He has no honor,” said Zenunaj (14-4, 11 KOs). “It’s a shame. When I come to the ring, I’m prepared to die. If you’re scared about death, maybe you shouldn’t do this. He was getting tired. He couldn’t breathe. My gameplan was going to get him after the fourth, fifth round. I was sure I was going to knock him out.”

In the co-feature bout, welterweight prospect Raul Curiel dropped Israel Villela twice en route to a fourth-round knockout victory.

Curiel (2-0, 1 KO), who represented Mexico in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, dropped Villela once in the third and once more in the fourth round. After Villela beat the count in Round 4, his corner threw in the towel, prompting referee Jerry Cantu to stop the bout at 2:23.

Another 2016 Olympian, Marlen Esparza, easily outpointed Karla Valenzuela over six rounds.

All three judges scored the bout 60-54 in favor of Esparza, who improved to 4-0.

In preliminary action:

Featherweight Joet Gonzalez (18-0, 10 KOs) knocked out Isao Carranza (15-11-1, 9 KOs) in the third round.

Junior bantamweight Joshua Franco (13-0, 6 KOs) won a one-sided decision over Carlos Maldonado (9-2, 7 KOs).

Junior welterweight Jonathan Navarro (12-0, 6 KOs) defeated Nelson Lara (17-9-4, 9 KOs) by unanimous decision.


Francisco A. Salazar has written for since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper,, and He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing