Juan De Angel figured to provide Kanat Islam his stiffest test entering Sunday’s clash of steel-fisted 154-pound prospects. After all, De Angel had stopped all but one man in 18 victories, including the previous three in a row.
Looks like Islam’s stiff test will have to come another time.
Using a sustained body attack and superior mobility, Kanat Islam (21-0-1, 18 KOs) dominated Juan De Angel (18-4-1, 17 KOs) en route to a sixth-round stoppage victory at the Lakeland Center in Lakeland, Florida. Islam, 31, was just starting to find the range with his power punches when De Angel suffered an apparent right ankle injury in the sixth round and was unable to continue.
Without being hit, De Angel awkwardly took a knee with 63 seconds remaining in the sixth, and although the 28-year-old Colombian quickly made it to his feet, he was favoring his right leg. When the fight resumed, Islam immediately went on the attack, and De Angel once again crumpled to the canvas because of the injury.
This time referee Telis Assimenios waved an end to the bout at the 2:38 mark.
“He was a very strong guy, so even when I hurt him early, I didn’t want to go crazy in the second or third rounds," said Islam, who was as elusive as he was accurate against De Angel. "I showed good defense and footwork, I worked inside and outside, and showed the fans my overall boxing skills.
"Maybe he was injured, but it was nearly the time when I was going to take him out [anyway].”
Islam's trainer, Nelson Lopez Sr., confirmed as much.
“Even with the injury, Kanat was about to finish him off, because I had already told him before the [sixth] round that I wanted him to take him out now,” Lopez said.
A China-born resident of Kazakhstan, Islam used early movement and a strong jab—often to the midsection—to position himself for counter rights and lefts. He absorbed some solid blows from De Angel as he pressed forward through the fourth and fifth rounds, but maintained control of the fight throughout and landed the more telling shots.
Prior to the bout, Islam and Lopez had talked about wanting to extend this fight to pile up some rounds rather than go for the early finish. Consider that mission accomplished.
“Kanat had been getting used to taking people out too fast, so we didn’t want him to come out desperately trying to take [De Angel] out," Lopez said. "We wanted to get some rounds in, and we’re satisfied with the six rounds we got in tonight."
Lopez's son, Nelson Lopez Jr.—who serves as Islam's manager and assistant trainer—concurred with his father's assessment.
“I know everybody wanted to see a knockout and it could have been a messier fight, but Kanat did everything that he was supposed to do in breaking him down, hurting him with right hands, and touching him with the body,” he said. “Kanat hurt him in the first and second rounds and stepped away, because we wanted him to box comfortably until something came up and he could close the show."
Islam, who won a bronze medal for his native China in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has now stopped eight of his last nine opponents—the only exception was a disqualification victory—dating back to May 2013.
The six rounds against De Angel matched the second longest outing of Islam’s career, trailing only a ninth-round unanimous decision over Eduardo Flores in April 2013. Flores is the only boxer who has taken Islam to the finish line in the latter’s 3½-year pro career.
The fact he's now finished off 86 percent of his opponents inside the distance explains why Islam has drawn comparisons to his fellow heavy-handed countryman and 160-pound champion Gennady Golovkin, who has KO'd 32 of his 35 opponents, including 22 in a row. And with each impressive win, Islam's star continues to grow in his adopted country.
"There were a lot of fans from the Kazakhstan community here, a lot of fans who traveled from far places to see me fight. That meant a lot to me," Islam said. "I wanted to make sure they got to see everything I can do in the ring. Now I want them to see me win a world title this year."
So what's next for the rising 154-pound prospect? Despite the somewhat extended effort Sunday, Lopez Jr. wants to get his fighter back in the ring quickly in hopes of building on the momentum gained from Islam's first experience as a main event fighter on national television.
"We need another fight similar to this one to continue marketing him," Lopez Jr. said. "So I would like him to be back in the ring as soon as possible, possibly as early as this summer.”
For full pre- and post-fight coverage of Islam vs De Angel, check out our fight page.
Cruz, Galarza prevail by decision
In a 147-pound, toe-to-toe slugfest between undefeated 25-year-olds of Puerto Rican descent, Miguel Cruz (13-0, 11 KOs) won a hard-earned split-decision over southpaw Samuel Figueroa (10-1, 4 KOs).
Cruz avenged two amateur losses to his close friend Figueroa in a bout during which both fighters launched haymakers, drilled crisp uppercuts up the middle and alternated moments when their respective backs were against the ropes.
Two judges scored the fight 78-74 and 77-75 for Cruz—who saw a nine-fight knockout streak end—while the third had it 77-75 for Figueroa.
In the opening Bounce TV broadcast, Dennis Galarza (13-1, 8 KOs) of Brooklyn, New York, scored an eight-round unanimous decision over Mexican southpaw Yardley Suarez (15-4, 9 KOs) in a 133-pound contest.
The 23-year-old Galarza, who won by scores of 78-74 twice and 77-75, earned his eighth consecutive win during a run that has included five knockouts. Suarez, 21, slipped to 2-3 in his past five fights.