Carlos Morales suffered cuts around both eyes and another on the bridge of his nose, but still emerged the winner via technical decision in his scheduled 10-round junior lightweight bout with Dardan Zenunaj on Thursday night. The match was held at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
Morales, 27, boxed very well the first four rounds, using lateral movement and throwing solid combinations to build an early lead. Zenunaj, 30, applied constant pressure but could not land punches with any consistency.
A legal punch opened a minor cut on the side of Morales' left eye in the first round, but he continued to pepper Zenunaj with scoring blows.
An accidental head-butt in the fourth round opened a far more serious cut on Morales' right eyelid. He kept boxing well but was hurt by a body punch in the fifth and seemed to be running out of steam in the sixth, when referee Raul Caiz Jr. called timeout so the ringside doctor could examine the cut.
Morales said that his vision was "blurry," and the doctor advised the referee to stop the fight, which he did.
Because the head-butt was ruled accidental, the scores of the first five rounds were tallied, resulting in Morales winning a unanimous technical decision by scores of 49-46 on all three cards.
Zenunaj (14-4, 11 KOs) was born in Kosovo but lives in Belgium and trains in California.
Morales (17-2-3, 6 KOs) is originally from Tulancingo, Mexico, but now resides in Highland Park, California.
Neither boxer was satisfied with the outcome. Morales said he thought Zenunaj was fighting dirty, and Zenunaj said he felt he was turning the fight in his favor when it was stopped.
The original main event was cancelled when Diego De La Hoya, the cousin of Oscar De La Hoya, failed to make weight for his match with Jose Salgado. Houston's Marlen Esparza, a bronze medalist at the 2012 Olympics, won a six-round decision over Mexico's Karla Valenzuela (3-18-3, 1 KO) in a junior bantamweight bout. The 28-year-old Esparza (4-0) was the aggressor throughout the one-sided bout, and all three judges scored it 60-54 in her favor.