By Keith Idec
ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – Isaac Zarate was too brave for his own good Saturday night.
Eventually, referee Eric Dali recognized that allowing Murodjon Akhmadaliev to continue tattooing Zarate was pointless. That’s why Dali halted their one-sided super bantamweight bout at 1:17 of the ninth round.
The sharper, stronger Akhmadaliev mostly kept Zarate on his back foot after touching him with straight left hands during the first round. Zarate’s toughness kept him on his feet throughout their bout, but his lack of power made it impossible for the San Pedro, California, native to keep the aggressive Akhmadaliev off of him.
Akhmadaliev (5-0, 4 KOs) became the first opponent to beat Zarate (16-4-3, 2 KOs) inside the distance.
Akhmadaliev’s victory came in the first of two bouts broadcast by HBO from Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Etess Arena. The main event will feature WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol, who’ll defend his title against former WBC champion Jean Pascal.
Uzbekistan’s Akhmadaliev won a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Akhmadaliev landed several hard head shots early in the ninth round, as Zarate backed into his own corner. He continued pursuing Zarate and connected with several vicious head shots that made Dali step in to protect Zarate from further punishment.
Akhmadaliev seemed to hurt Zarate by landing a sweeping right hook when there was about 1:50 to go in the eighth round. He backed up Zarate with a left uppercut and a right uppercut late in the eighth as well.
Early in the sixth round, Akhmadaliev drilled Zarate with vicious shots that snapped back Zarate’s head. Akhmadaliev also backed Zarate into a neutral corner with a straight left hand late in the sixth.
Akhmadaliev landed several hard body shots just after the halfway point of the fifth round, but Zarate fired back to keep Akhmadaliev away from him temporarily.
Akhmadaliev stung Zarate with left hands at the beginning of the third round and again toward the end of it. Zarate took those shots well, but hadn’t landed many punches of his own to that point.
A solid right hook by Akhmadaliev got Zarate’s attention with just under a minute to go in the second round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.