Marlon Tapales upsets Murodjon Akhmadaliev via split decision, wins WBA and IBF 122-pound titles
Marlon Tapales earned two junior featherweight world titles with a hard-fought split decision over heavily favored defending champ Murodjon Akhmadaliev on Saturday in San Antonio, an upset victory that could eventually lead the former bantamweight beltholder to the winner of the anticipated 122-pound showdown between Steven Fulton and Japanese star Naoya Inoue.
Tapales (37-3, 19 KOs), a 31-year-old veteran from the Philippines, won by two scores of 115-113, margins that were indicative of the close nature of the 12-round contest. One judge scored the bout 118-110 in favor of Akhmadaliev (11-1, 8 KOs), which was ridiculously off base.
The fight could have been a draw or 115-113 win for Akhmadaliev, but neither junior featherweight southpaw dominated to a 118-110 degree. And Tapales deserved to have his hand raised with the guts and smart tactics he exhibited throughout the fight, especially during the first half of the bout when his jab befuddled Akhmadaliev and flush uppercuts and a left hands repeatedly stunned the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist from Uzbekistan.
Akhmadaliev, a 28-year-old boxer-puncher who lives and trains in Indio, California, began to step up his aggression and attack the body of Tapales during the middle rounds, but he was still caught by counter punches and power shots on the fly. Only when Akhmadaliev fully committed to pressure and a higher punch volume in the late rounds did the odds favorite take command of the bout by keeping Tapales on his heels (and rocking him a few times), but by then it was too little too late on two of the judges’ scorecards.
Akhmadaliev entered the fight, which was streamed live on DAZN, as The Ring’s No. 2-rated junior featherweight, behind Fulton, who holds the WBC and WBO titles. Tapales entered the fight as The Ring’s No. 6 contender.
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