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Talking Boxing

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February 11, 2017

One for the good guys

Ricky Hatton, Zhanat Zhakiyanov, Raushee Warren, WBA

The patience and hard work has finally paid off for Hatton and Zhakiyanov.

by Rian Scalia

Score one for the good guys. It’s hard to not like Ricky Hatton, who occasionally falls on hard times in and out of the ring, but always has the support of everyone in the boxing community.

His fighter Lucas Browne hasn’t fought since the failed drug test fiasco stemming from his win over Ruslan Chagaev in March of 2016, which netted him the WBA regular Heavyweight world title. Super Welterweight Sergey Rabchenko was blown out by Tony Harrison in America in July, Kiryl Relikh was very hard done by on the scorecards not to win the WBA Super Lightweight title off Ricky Burns in October and Cameron Hammond lost his Commonwealth Welterweight title challenge against Kris George in Australia one month later. 

As a trainer, a world title still eluded “The Hitman” heading into 2017. Enter Zhanat Zhakiyanov, the Kazakh Bantamweight who has been with Hatton for some time now. The unusual tandem of Englishman and Kazakh won the WBA interim title at Bantamweight in November of 2015, to eventually set up yesterday's title challenge against the full WBA titleholder Rau'shee Warren.

For Zhakiyanov, it meant heading in to hostile territory, with Ohio being Warren’s home state and the card being promoted his lifelong friend Adrien Broner. Fighting for the first time in America, it was the 12th country that the Kazakh has fought in during his pro career. It was also his first fight in about 16 months, as the team waited for the WBA to enforce the fight.

The deck seemed to be stacked against the Kazakh heavily heading in. Then once the fight started, factor in getting knocked down twice in the first round and quickly having a 10-7 round scored against him. It was an uphill battle to make up for the early deficit.

As the fight went on and Zhakiyanov clawed his way back into the fight with relentless pressure, it appeared as if he would have to beat two opponents on the night – the other one being referee Gary Rosato. Rosato was constantly on his case, pushing him back and breaking the two fighters quickly at times. Not to mention, he missed what probably should’ve been a knockdown in Zhakiyanov’s favour.

“ZZ” kept on trucking and Warren kept on getting backed up to the ropes, holding, and giving away the fight. The Kazakhstan native just kept on coming and Warren couldn’t do anything about it. While not a technician by any means, Zhakiyanov is rough, rugged and powerful enough to make up for some of the flaws he possesses.

Before the 12th and final round, Hatton told his fighter that he was winning but should still go for the knockout. Rightfully so, considering they were the away party.

Zhakiyanov finished the final round strong before a long wait for the scorecards to be tallied. Ricky Hatton shook his head after Larry Hazard Jr.’s 115-111 Warren score was announced, which was followed by a 115-111 Zhakiyanov score. When 116-110 was read, Hatton shook his head again and seemed to anticipate that they weren’t going to get the decision but then raised his arms in delight and hugged his fighter – who didn’t seem to understand “And the new” quite well. The moment then set in for the 33-year-old who waited 10 years into his pro career to catch a taste of world title glory.

For both men, it had been a long time in the making and an even longer road. Zhakiyanov started his pro career in the barren pro boxing scene of Kazakhstan back in 2007, trudging his way all over the world in obscurity. Hatton endured many bumps in the road, both as a trainer and promoter, as well as his struggles outside of boxing.

Being a Bantamweight from Kazakhstan, the only ever choice for Zhakiyanov was to hit the road. Luckily he met Hatton and Philippe Fondu. It’s the type of story that can give hope to fighters around the world from places that don’t have much pro boxing. It also shows that if a fighter has the ability, it can be worth the long time and wait for him and his handlers, no matter where they’re from. Belts matter and having one means you’re in demand.

Hatton got redemption for some of his struggles in and out of the ring after he retired from fighting, having kept faith in his smaller stable of lesser known fighters. It all paid off for him and Zhakiyanov. All in all, it’s just a feel good story.