An illegal blow by Ruslan Madiyev to the back of the head of Danielito Zorrilla brought an abrupt end to their pressure-packed super lightweight affair Thursday, forcing the judges to go to the scorecards for an earlier decision than desired.
The end came at 1:16 of the eighth round in a fight that Zorrilla (15-0, 11 KOs) could no longer continue after he was forced to fend off a maddening attack by Madiyev (13-2, 5 KOs) from the opening bell.
Judge Steve Weisfeld scored the fight 76-73 for Madiyev but was overruled by judge Chris Flores with a score of 77-75 and by Gerardo Martinez 76-75.
The Puerto Rican Zorrilla was transported to a local hospital in his hometown for observation shortly afterward.
The fight primarily took place in the pocket, with Madiyev engaging with pressure from the beginning and making the fight a tough bout to score. Zorrilla kept countering and landing short and crisp combinations as he pleased, even off his back foot.
Madiyev, who hails from the same hometown in Karaganda, Kazakhstan as middleweight champion Gennadiy Golovkin, started the fourth by immediately backing Zorrilla and setting a trap in the neutral corner and scoring with a north and south attack.
The Miguel Cotto-promoted Zorrilla admirably picked his spots for counter hooks and jabs through the guard cleanly and consistently.
The 27-year-old Zorrilla never really respected Madiyev’s power and was not bothered by the pitbull-like approach of his adversary.
Neither fighter particularly approached the fight with a defensive-minded gameplan, throwing wide shots for most of the night.
The Joel Diaz-trained Madiyev had gone 599 days since his light bout but showed no signs of ring rust due to the layoff.
Zorilla owned a three inch height and reach advantage but size did not matter for Madiyev.
"The result of the fight wasn’t fair. We knew we came to Puerto Rico with everything against us," said Diaz. "Ruslan was just getting his groove. He was getting stronger after the fifth. Zorrilla started to slow down because he was tired. He kept hugging Ruslan during most of the fight
Referee Janny Guzman took a point away from Madiyev for hitting behind the head in the fifth round, a round he was winning. The deduction was a questionable one considering Madiyev was never warned for the foul.
In the sixth round, Guzman again warned Madiyev to not lunge in head-first but didn’t take away a point. The admonishments did not stop Madiyev from making the match a fire fight for Zorilla. It was the Puerto Rican, however, who made the round count with his output even though he got caught with a right hand that momentarily stopped him in his tracks.
The seventh stanza followed much of the same script from the rounds before -- all action.
In the eight round, however, as the fight was heatin up, it was a repetition of illegal activity when Madiyev blatantly struck Zorrilla in the back of the head.
Zorrilla was clearly shaken by the blow, taking several minutes to recover before Guzman stopped the fight and had it go to cards, per WBO rules.
“Personally, Zorrilla wanted out of the fight,” said Diaz. “Because of the experience I have, I can tell he was tired, he couldn’t handle the pressure, and chose the right moment to say Ruslan hurt him. He wasn’t hurt. He’s a good actor. He should go do movies. We were winning the fight. Golden boy just called me and said they watched the fight, and we won. This isn’t fair for my fighter because he put in the work, got ready.... but what can we do know? We gotta keep going forward. But really, Zorrilla should be a telenovela actor."
The undercard fight took place Thursday as part of the Ring City USA show on NBC Sports Network at the Municipal Boxing Gym in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico headlined by the 154-pound bout between Serhii Bohachuk (18-0, 18 KOs) and Brandon Adams (22-3, 14 KOs).
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com.