Zuniga Upsets Oganov; Kirkland Stops Said
TACOMA – In exactly the type of well-matched, hotly contested fight that exemplifies what “ShoBox: The New Generation” is all about, Fulgencio Zuniga (20-2-1, 17 KOs) registered a convincing ninth-round TKO over previously undefeated World Boxing Organization (WBO) No. 8 contender Victor Oganov (26-1, 26 KOs) in a one-sided war for the vacant International Boxing Organization (IBO) super middleweight championship Saturday on Showtime.
In the co-feature of a tremendous “ShoBox” fight card, highly regarded unbeaten WBO No. 10-ranked 154-pound contender James Kirkland (20-0, 17 KOs) demolished Mohammad Said (22-6-1, 14 KOs), dropping him three times en route to a scintillating second-round knockout.
Gary Shaw Productions, LLC, in association with Brian Halquist Productions, co-promoted the terrific doubleheader from Emerald Queen Casino.
The battle-tested Zuniga, of Padilla, Columbia, overcame a disputed first-round knockdown to out-work, out-hustle, out-punch, out-fight and, ultimately, outclass Oganov, who entered the ring having won all 26 of his fights inside the distance.
“I was always confident,’’ said Zuniga, who flattened Oganov with a devastating left hook early in the ninth. “I fought better guys than him. I knew I could win.’’
The Russian beat the count and made it to his feet, but was definitely rattled. Zuniga quickly backed a defenseless Oganov into the ropes and continued to apply intense pressure with both fists. After a series of unanswered punches, the exciting, crowd-pleasing slugfest was stopped by the referee at 1:25.
“This was not an easy fight and Oganov was very strong, but I knew after the first round the fight was mine,” said a jubilant Zuniga, who, after losing the opening session, 10-8, swept the last seven on the three judges’ scorecards. He was ahead, 78-73, after eight completed rounds.
“This was obviously a very important victory for me and the best of my career. My entire team deserves a ton of credit for getting me ready. I think I proved what kind of fighter I am. The referee made a mistake calling that a knockdown in the first. I wasn’t hurt, just off-balance.
“But the referee did a good job stopping the fight when he did because I was ready to finish him.’’
Zuniga’s experience against better competition may have been his main advantage. His only defeats came against former 154-pound world champion Daniel Santos in 2003 and current No. 1-ranked middleweight contender, unbeaten Kelly Pavlik, in 2005. “I would love to fight Pavlik again, or any of the top fighters at 160 or 168,’’ Zuniga said. “I always have felt I could compete with the top guys.’’
If he had triumphed by knockout, Oganov would have joined former World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko and ex-World Boxing Association (WBA) super middleweight titlist In Chul Baek, who both went 27-0 with 27 stoppages to begin their pro careers.
Jose Urtan, a heavyweight from Spain, scored 30 consecutive knockouts in the 1970’s. Former world super featherweight and lightweight champion Acelino Freitas and former world bantamweight titleholder Alfonso Zamora each registered 29 consecutive victories at the outset of their careers.
The record by a “name’’ fighter for most consecutive knockout victories to start a career is held by Billy Fox, a light heavyweight in the mid-1940’s, who scored knockouts in his first 36 starts.
“The knockouts didn’t mean anything to me. All I cared about was winning, but tonight just wasn’t my night,’’ said Oganov, who got credit for a knockdown when he rocked Zuniga backward and into the ropes. The referee, feeling the ropes saved Zuniga from hitting the canvas, ruled it a knockdown.
“I never felt like myself in there,” Oganov continued. “I don’t make excuses, but I injured a rib in February and maybe I came back too soon. I lacked my usual zip. Maybe I was head-hunting too much, I don’t know. What I do know is that I never could connect with my best punch.
“I knew Zuniga would throw a lot, but he was busier that I thought he would be. I give him credit though. He is a great fighter. The cut over my (right) eye was not a factor. I just couldn’t get it going.
“This is a very disappointing loss. If he wants a rematch, I would gladly fight him again.’’
It is highly unlikely Said will seek a return bout against the hard-hitting Kirkland after the manner in which the talented, determined southpaw from Austin, Tex., manhandled him.
“I feel that tonight I showed what I was capable of,” said Kirkland, who was making his third consecutive “ShoBox’’ appearance. He scored two knockdowns in the first before a beautiful, perfectly timed three-punch combination to the chin ended matters at 2:32 of the second.
“I don’t want to say I was looking past Said, but I expected a short fight. Maybe not this short, but I figured four or five rounds.
“I feel very satisfied. I was disappointed after my last fight (a 10-round decision over Ossie Duran on June 1). I was in good shape, but not the kind of shape I wanted to be. Tonight, I felt great and am very happy with my performance.’’
Said (21-6, 14 KOs), of Secaucus, N.J. by way of Brazil, had nothing but praise for Kirkland afterward.
“He is a great, young fighter,” Said said. “He was a lot quicker and faster than I thought. I wanted to box more and only punch with him when I had to and take it into the later rounds. But he could really punch hard.’
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