ZHANAT ZHAKIYANOV proved he belongs amongst the world’s elite by winning the interim WBA bantamweight title on Saturday night (November 7).
The Kazakh, who is trained by former four-time world champion Ricky Hatton, overcame the tall and tricky Venezuelan Yonfrez Parejo with a split decision verdict in front the of the great and the good of Monte Carlo.
Zhakiyanov had blasted out his previous 12 opponents and hoped to make it 13, but Parejo took him the long route by refusing to engage in close.
The South American’s jab and move tactic gave Zhakiyanov a few problems in the early rounds, but he refused to let his frustration show and continued to patiently stalk his foe before getting off single hooks.
With Parejo tiring, Zhakiynov took control of the fight down the stretch. Urged to “throw more shots” by Hatton, “ZZ” stepped across his opponent and connected regularly with quality punches.
Judges Giuseppe Quartarone and Stanley Christodoulou scored it 116-113 and 115-113 respectively against Levi Martinez’s verdict of 112-116.
“I’m very proud of what Zhanat has achieved,” Hatton, who is also Zhakiyanov’s promoter, said. “He was in with a very good opponent, who gave him a lot to think about, but he stuck to the game plan and got the job done.
“We said we wanted a knockout before the fight and think there were a few times when Zhanat hurt Parejo, but you can’t always have an early night and this victory is still as sweet as can be.
“The people of Kazakhstan love their boxing and I think Zhanat will have become something of a national hero now. They’ve got great fighters like Golovkin and Shumenov at world level already and now they’ve got Zhanat to get behind.
“He can go back home now with his new belt, have some well-deserved time off, and prepare himself for a massive 2016.
“This win has opened the door to the really big fights and I think it’s only a matter of time before he gets his hands on the full WBA title as well as a few more world titles.”