No one would have blamed unified Super Bantamweight champ Danny Roman (27-3, 10 KOs) if he took a tune-up fight after a tough outing with TJ Doheny as well as an injury that had him out of the ring for a total of 207 days.
Instead, Roman elected to take on WBA mandatory challenger and acclaimed amateur, Murodjon “MJ” Akhmadaliev (8-0, 7 KOs).
While he may not be a household name, with a little research you’ll find a fighter with over 350 amateur fights, a bronze Olympic medal, intimidating power and an apparent fascination with the “King of Pop,” hence his nickname.
The WBA and IBF Super Bantamweight champion struggled early on with the agile and hard-hitting Akhmadaliev who did his best to keep the fight in the center of the ring.
Roman started the bout with an unusually slow pace and style that we had not seen from the “The Baby Faced Assasin.” The fight showcased high-level boxing from both men and a particularly impressive early showing from Akhmadaliev.
Roman’s corner began to sense the tide shifting and pleaded with their fighter to pick up the pace and continue to attack the body. Roman began to assert himself in the second half of the fight and found a home for a lot of his inside shots, which included thundering uppercuts.
Akhmadaliev continued to press the pace, while also landing the more eye-opening shots heading into the championship rounds. Roman did his best to close the gap on the scorecards and finished with a strong 12th round despite a display of incredible cardio from MJ.
The bout fell into the judge’s hands for a split decision victory going in favor of Akhmadaliev.
All three judges scored the bout 115-113 (twice for MJ and once for Roman) and with that, Akhmadaliev joined Leon Spinks as the only male fighter to become a unified world champion in just eight pro fights.
“I can’t describe what I’m feeling right now,” said the new unified champion. “I’ve been through so much, and to accomplish this in just eight fights, it’s truly amazing.”
Despite the flare of confidence throughout the fight, Akhmadaliev claimed that Roman was tougher and more difficult to fight than he had anticipated.
Roman may not have been his usual self on this evening, but he remains one of the most exceptional fighters in the division and will hope to try and secure a rematch with MJ soon.