Ra’eese Aleem’s grand scheme towards 122-pound dominance
Ra’eese Aleem would like to keep it simple and succinct: The 31-year-old 122-pound contender is aiming at The Ring’s No. 1-rated fighter, IBF/WBA titlist Murodjon “MJ” Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7 knockouts).
Once the WBA junior featherweight “interim” titlist, Aleem (18-0, 12 KOs) has a point. For one, when the WBA rightfully removed all of its “interim” titles, Aleem became the sanctioning body’s No. 1 contender for Akhmadaliev.
Aleem’s already had two title-eliminating victories, stopping Vic Pasillas (KO 11) and Marcus Bates (KO 10). Showtime announced on Thursday that Aleem would be fighting Mexico’s Eduardo Baez in the 10-round co-main event under the title unification bout between WBC beltholder Brandon “Heartbreaker” Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) and WBO titlist Stephen “Cool Boy Steph” Fulton Jr. (19-0, 8 KOs) on Saturday, November 27, from the Park Theater at Park MGM in Las Vegas.
Fulton is ranked No. 3 by The Ring at 122, Figueroa is ranked No. 4 by Ring and Aleem is ranked No. 7.
Aleem is looking at Akhmadaliev as his primary target. The grand scheme is face Akhmadaliev, beat him and then face the winner of Fulton-Figueroa for the undisputed junior featherweight title.
“I want the WBA to keep their word and order the Akhmadaliev fight to happen,” Aleem said. “The WBA took away my belt when they took away all of the interim titles. But I was made the mandatory challenger for Akhmadaliev.”
Fulton and Figueroa were originally scheduled to face each other on Saturday, September 18, before the fight was pushed back due to a positive COVID-19 test for Figueroa, and Aleem was originally scheduled to fight on that card against Daniel Roman, The Ring’s No. 2 ranked 122-pounder.
Aleem has been Akhmadaliev’s mandatory challenger for over a year. Akhmadaliev is a Matchroom Boxing fighter, and Aleem fights under the King’s Promotion banner and fights for PBC. Akhmadaliev was supposed to defend his titles against Ronny Rios on August 28, but that fight was postponed, then MJ tested positive and can’t fight until he is medically cleared.
Akhmadaliev-Rios’s fight was a bid won by Matchroom.
“My September 18 fight was cancelled and I was hoping to fight Akhmadaliev, because his fight was also cancelled against Rios and I shouldn’t have to fight another title eliminator,” Aleem said. “It’s frustrating. I’m the No.1-ranked WBA contender. I’m doing everything I can, putting on spectacular performances and winning.
“I have a great team around me and I’m tired of all of these ducking and dodging me. I’m tired of the WBA piling on more title-elimination fights and I’m ready and want the Akhmadaliev fight. I want the WBA to stay true to their word and make this fight happen.
“The WBA says they want to clean everything up, so why don’t they stop these people from ducking and dodging. Boxing politics are in the way. Akhmadaliev fights on the DAZN and I have no problem fighting on DAZN, because Al Haymon wants the best for his fighters. If that means an opportunity for me, I’ll fight on any network I can to get Akhmadaliev in the ring.”
Aleem has another alternative and wait for the winner of the Fulton-Figueroa fight, and then take those belts to fight Akhmadaliev, who is contractually obligated to fight Rios.
“I would take the Fulton-Figueroa winner as a great Plan B,” Aleem said. “I want a chance. That’s all I’m asking for. I just turned 31 in June and my time is ticking, even though I’m a late-bloomer I’m in my prime.
“I not only won every fight that I’ve had, I’ve dominated every fight that I’ve had. I deserve my chance.”
The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® Nov. 27 telecast will begin at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT and also features undefeated super bantamweight contender Ra’eese Aleem battling Mexico’s Eduardo Baez in the 10-round co-main event. Opening the telecast, unbeaten rising bantamweight contender Gary Antonio Russell takes on Mexico’s Alejandro Barrios in a 10-round showdown. The event is promoted by TGB Promotions.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.