Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN results: Carlos Morales outpoints Dardan Zenunaj after abrupt ending

Junior lightweight Raul Curiel (right) vs. Israel Villela. Photo Credit: Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions


Carlos Morales earned a technical decision win over Dardan Zenunaj, Thursday night, in an underwhelming ending to an underwhelming night at the Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino, in Indio, California. The junior lightweight contest was the main event of a Golden Boy Promotions card televised on ESPN2.


“I tell (Morales) he has no honor. It was a shame. When I come to the ring, I come to die.”


Zenunaj’s emotions may have gotten the best of him, in his post-fight interview with ESPN’s Beto Duran, but that’s what typically happens in abrupt endings. The Albanian import was furious that his fight with Morales was stopped after having one of his best rounds in the fifth. Referee Raul Caiz Jr. was worried about a gash above Morales’ right eye, one accidentally created by Zenunaj’s head in the fourth round. There were two other cuts on Morales as well but those were from punches from the 30-year-old, who was not only looking to win the fight but a promotional contract that was hanging in the balance.


Morales, 17-2-3 (6), got off to a great start, once buckling Zenunaj in the fight’s opening moments with a right hand. The first cut forced upon him was by the end of the first three minutes but Morales proceeded to outbox Zenunaj in the second round rather easily. Morales’ jab and movement kept him well ahead of Zenunaj’s looping hooks and, after doing the same in the subsequent round, the 27-year-old nicknamed “The Solution” had all the answers, if he could just keep boxing this way. The nasty cut happened in the fourth and, after time was called, Zenunaj threw nothing but left hooks knowing Morales probably couldn’t track them. He was right and, in the fifth, Morales showed signs of weariness after having to keep his feet busy and deal with the leaking cut.


Zenunaj, 14-4 (11), landed a body shot in the fifth round that not only stopped Morales in his tracks that very moment but made him a stationary target for the rest of the round. With still half a fight to go, and not completely shut out so far, Zenunaj was looking great, going into the sixth round. That was until time was called for the final time in the opening seconds of the round.


“I told the doctor I could see but it was double,” Morales said post-fight. “I’d die in the ring too but they stopped it.”


The humdrum result to an otherwise interesting fight certainly made Thursday night’s ESPN2 telecast seem like the kicking of the proverbial can, especially because this wasn’t even supposed to be the main event, after junior featherweight contender Diego De La Hoya missed weight by four pounds, canceling his fight with Jose Salgado.


In the co-feature, former Mexican Olympian Raul Curiel, 2-0 (1), scored his first knockout in his television debut after forcing a corner stoppage in the fourth and final round, over welterweight Israel Villela, 6-8 (2).


Undefeated welterweight prospect Raul Curiel (left) vs. Israel Villela. Photo Credit: Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions


Coming off a knuckle injury that delayed the follow-up to his May pro debut, Curiel, showed no signs favoring his right hand and got himself into an action fight midway through the first. Villela kept up with Curiel in the exchanges early on, and counter right uppercuts forced the 22-year-old from Tampico to think twice about coming forward so freely. Youth and size would prevail, as the rounds went on, and Curiel’s body attack was his best asset on this night. A left to Villela’s 37-year-old body dropped him to a knee in the third round and, after a flurry in the fourth, he found himself there again. With Villela hanging by a thread, Curiel had just about a minute to get his first knockout but his foe’s corner asked for the stoppage at the 2:23 mark. Although it was well-earned by Curiel, Villela was not happy with his corner about it.


In the opening bout of the ESPN2 telecast, Marlen Esparza earned a shut-out unanimous decision (60-54 on all cards) win over Karla Valenzuela after six rounds of female flyweight action.


Undefeated flyweight prospect Marlen Esparza (left) vs. Karla Valenzuela. Photo Credit: Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions


Esparza, 4-0, an Olympic bronze medal winner in the 2016 Rio Games, was close to getting her first knockout in the final round but her Mexican counterpart was tough enough to stick out what had been a clinic to the body. Valenzuela, 3-17-3 (1), did enough throwing back to eventually redden Esparza’s face by the end of the fight but she ultimately succumbed to the fundamental combination punching that was short, quick, and precise. Esparza, Houston, Texas, tried to get that knockout in the final round by throwing nothing but body shots, once Valenzuela clearly had slowed, but she caps off a successful year in which her career started last March.




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