Between rounds after the sixth, Arthur Villanueva walked to center ring and bowed to his opponent Nordine Oubaali, signaling his withdrawal from the fight.
With that gesture, Oubaali retained his WBC bantamweight title for the first time Saturday, stopping the Filipino contender at Barys Arena in Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), Kazakhstan. It was the first defense for Oubaali (16-0, 12 knockouts) of the belt he won in January when he outpointed Rau’shee Warren to fill that vacancy.
It was all Oubaali from the outset as he was quicker and more authoritative, getting his combinations off while Villanueva (32-4-1, 18 KOs) was hesitant to answer back with more than one punch at a time. Oubaali was able to push Villanueva to the ropes early and often, usually with impunity, while Villanueva landed infrequently with his right hand.
The left hands from the Frenchman began to swell the area around Villanueva’s right eye, making him an easier target. Oubaali scored the fight’s only knockdown midway through the sixth, landing an uppercut-right hook combination that sent Villanueva to a knee. He beat the count, but Oubaali poured on the punishment, doing everything but stop him over the next minute and change.
The fight had been decided though, and the next interaction the two combatants would have is an embrace.
Oubaali, who is rated no. 5 by The Ring, could soon be making a mandatory defense against Luis Nery (29-0, 23 KOs), the former belt holder who was stripped for missing weight in his rematch against Shinsuke Yamanaka in 2018. Nery first must get past Juan Carlos Payano on the July 20 Pacquiao-Thurman card in Las Vegas.
Villanueva, two years the junior of Oubaali at 30, falls short for the third time in a world title bout. All of his defeats have come against southpaws.
The world title fight wouldn’t close the show in Kazakhstan. That honor was reserved for hometown favorite Zhankosh Turarov (24-0, 17 KOs). Turarov cut through Mauro Godoy (31-5-1, 16 KOs) in three rounds of this scheduled ten-round junior welterweight bout to win his second straight fight in as many months following a nearly two-year layoff.
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