Murodjon Akhmadaliev defeats Daniel Roman by split decision, wins unified junior feather title
Murodjon Akhmadaliev made history tonight after grinding out a close, split decision victory over Daniel Roman to win the IBF and WBA junior featherweight titles. In doing so, Akhmadaliev becomes the first boxer from Uzbekistan to win a world title.
One judge scored it 115-113 for Roman, with the other two seeing it 115-113 for Akhmadaliev, who improved to 8-0 (6 knockouts). “Nobody ever believed in me,” said Akhmadaliev, a 25-year-old Uzbek who trains out of Indio, California. “But today I made history. I’m the first from my country to win a world title.”
Both men did some good body work in the early rounds. There was an apparent speed advantage for the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Akhmadaliev, both with his hands and feet. Roman (27-3-1, 10 KOs) managed to sneak in some well-timed counter punches, including a nice uppercut on the inside that found the target.
Roman amped up the pressure in the fourth with a focus on the body, attempting to slow down his faster, more elusive opponent. Akhmadaliev used a lot of movement and some flashy combinations from the outside. An overhand left at the end of the fifth round appeared to stun Roman.
The Uzbek found a nice rhythm in the middle rounds, mixing up his punches well, landing several lead left hands from the southpaw stance. Still, trainer Joel Diaz asked him for more activity, as he was fighting in spurts.
Roman kept pushing forward and throwing power shots, finding more success with his uppercut. He landed several beautiful uppercuts in the seventh, eighth and ninth that snapped Akhmadaliev’s head back.
By the championship rounds Roman had a cut on his right eyelid and Akhmadaliev’s face was marked with bruises and a cut on the cheek. Akhmadaliev, who had never previously fought past the ninth round, appeared to win the tenth, landing several flush shots that pushed Roman back. Roman dug to the body hard in the final round, fighting like he knew the bout was up for grabs.
Roman, who was making the fifth defense of the WBA title he won in Japan three years ago, and the first defense of the IBF title he won last April in a fight of the year candidate against TJ Doheny, was disappointed but gracious in defeat.
“I’m a fighter,” he said, “I’ll fight anybody they put in front of me. I would love to rematch. This will make me a better fighter.”
Punch numbers revealed just how close the fight was. Roman landed 150-728 total punches (21%), to 153-498 (31%) for Akhmadaliev.
Akhmadaliev had expected to face Roman last September in New York, but an injury to Roman’s shoulder postponed the bout. Trainer Eddie Gonzalez wanted Roman to dump his WBA title and skip the mandatory challenger, but Roman wanted to face Akhmadaliev to prove he was best 122-pound fighter in the world.
The bout was part of a Matchroom Boxing card that was broadcast on sports streaming service DAZN from the Meridian at Island Gardens in Miami, Florida.
Michael Montero can be found on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram via @MonteroOnBoxing. His weekly podcast ‘The Neutral Corner’ can be heard on iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio and elsewhere.