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Marlon Tapales aims for an upset against Murodjon Akhmadaliev on April 8

Marlon Tapales walks off after demolishing Hiroaki Teshigawara in two rounds. Photo by Jhay Oh Otamias
Fighters Network

Murodjon Akhmadaliev will defend his unified world title belts against Marlon Tapales on April 8, Matchroom Boxing announced Wednesday afternoon.

The 12-round bout will take place at the Tech Port Arena in San Antonio, Texas and will precede the main event bout between Jesse Rodriguez and Crisitan Gonzalez, with the vacant IBF flyweight title on the line.

Both fights will stream live on DAZN (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).

The fight between Akhmadaliev and Tapales is a clash of fighters ranked in the top 10 ranked by The Ring. Akhmadaliev and Tapales are ranked No. 2 and 5, respectively.

Akhmadaliev (11-0, 8 knockouts), who is originally from Chust, Uzbekistan and now resides in Indio, California, last fought on June 25, also at the Tech Port Arena, stopping Ronny Rios in the 12th round. The win over Rios came over seven months after Akhmadaliev defeated late-sub Jose Velazquez by unanimous decision.

There was talk of Akhmadaliev fighting WBC and WBO world titleholder Stephen Fulton later this year, but Fulton is reportedly fighting Ring magazine Naoya Inoue in May or June.

The 28-year-old is still holding out hope he will become an undisputed champion at 122 pounds. In the meantime, he will face Tapales, who is the mandatory challenger to the IBF title.

“I’m happy to be back in the ring,” said Akhmadaliev, who is managed by Vadim Kornilov. “It’s been a while, but finally we’re here for an exciting match against a great fighter in Tapales. He’s a former champion, we have similar styles, so I am preparing for (a) tough action-packed fight on April 8. Thanks to Matchroom, World of Boxing, my team and all the support from boxing fans.”

Tapales (36-3, 19 KOs), who resides in Kapatagan in the Philippines, last fought on May 14, knocking out journeyman Jose Estrella in the second round. In December 2011, Tapales stopped Hiroaki Teshigawara in the second round.

The 30-year-old has won his last three fights, all by knockout, since a knockout loss to Ryosuke Iwasa in December 2019. Despite the setback against Iwasa, Tapales is confident he can upend Akhmadaliev.

“I am very excited again for this opportunity to fight for not one but two world titles,” said Tapales, who is represented by Sean Gibbons and Shane Shapiro. “I would like to thank my team, including TGB Promotions, for getting this opportunity. I will bring pride and glory to the Philippines when I win both the IBF and WBA belts.”

Also on the Matchroom Boxing card, unbeaten Raymond Ford of Camden, New Jersey will face former world junior featherweight titleholder Jessie Magdaleno in a 10-round bout.

Ford (13-0-1, 7 KOs) notched a highlight-reel knockout win in his last fight on November 12, knocking out Sakaria Lukas in the eighth round. The 23-year-old also fought on the June 25 card, defeating Richard Medina by unanimous decision in a clash of unbeaten prospects.

Magdaleno (29-1, 18 KOs) last fought in his hometown of Las Vegas on May 21, defeating Eddy Valencia Mercado by unanimous decision. The win over Valencia was his last fight under the Top Rank banner. Magdaleno has won his last four bouts since his knockout loss to Isaac Dogboe in April 2018.

In the opening bout of the DAZN stream, junior lightweight Thomas Mattice (20-3-1, 15 KOs) of Cleveland, Ohio, who recently signed a promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing and defeated Christian Tapia in his last bout on November 12, will square off against Mexico’s Ramiro Cesena (16-0-1, 13 KOs) in a 10-round bout.

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]