Murodjon Akhmadaliev was hoping to clear off at least one mandatory obligation from his plate heading into the new year.
Doing so would mean fewer restrictions in his quest to become undisputed champion which could potentially come by his next fight if the sanctioning bodies cooperate. Akhmadaliev—the reigning WBA “Super” and IBF junior featherweight titlist—was due to face WBA mandatory challenger Ronny Rios this Friday, eight days prior to the title unification clash between WBC titlist Brandon Figueroa (22-0-1, 17KOs)—a training stablemate of Akhmadaliev—and WBO claimant Stephen Fulton (19-0, 8KOs) next Saturday at Park MGM in Las Vegas.
Uzbekistan’s Akhmadaliev (9-0, 7KOs) will instead face late substitute Jose Velasquez (29-6-2, 19KOs), a streaking contender from Chile who got the call after Rios tested positive for Covid one week ago.
“Assuming all goes well on Friday and I emerge victorious, of course I would like nothing more than the chance to become undisputed champion,” Akhmadaliev told BoxingScene.com. “My goal is to get all of the belts, no matter who I have to face to make that happen.
“I am confident in my manager, Vadim [Kornilov] making this fight happen for me. The only worry is if I have to make my mandatory. We’re not sure if the WBA will force us to go back to facing Ronny Rios once he’s healthy. He was my mandatory and has earned his title shot. If they say I still have to face him, then I will do that to keep my titles and then go for the undisputed once there is nothing standing in the way.”
For now, the focus is on retaining the belts which Akhmadaliev has held since January 2020. Friday will mark his second attempted defense as part of a four title fight show on DAZN from SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire. A twelve-round, split decision victory over Danny Roman saw Akhmadaliev become a unified champ in just his eighth pro fight, having to wait out the pandemic before returning in a knockout win over former titlist Ryosuke Iwasa this past April in his homeland of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Akhmadaliev—a Bronze medalist for Uzbekistan during the 2016 Rio Olympics—was due to face Rios this past August 28, only to test positive for Covid himself and with the fight delayed by another three months. This time it was Rios who fell prey to the infectious disease, with the status currently undetermined as to whether the California native will remain in line for a rescheduled title opportunity. Azat Hovhannisyan was also named as a mandatory challenger by the WBA, leaving a situation that will hopefully sort itself out sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, the unbeaten titlist can only focus on what remains in his control—which means taking care of current business before looking to the future.
“My focus is on Friday night and facing this opponent,” insists Akhmadaliev. “I’m not yet thinking about what comes next for me.”
Akhmadaliev-Velasquez serves in supporting capacity to two-division and reigning WBO middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade (30-0, 18KOs) of nearby Providence, Rhode Island in a title defense versus Ireland’s Jason Quigley (19-1, 14KOs).