MIAMI—Daniel Roman had already lodged the first successful defense of his 122-pound title by the time Murodjon Akhmadaliev entered the pro ranks in March 2018.
Just seven fights and not even two full years into his career, the unbeaten Uzbekistan is already pursuing boxing immortality against a red-hot and now unified junior featherweight titlist.
“I am fighting for all of Uzbekistan tonight,” Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6KOs) told BoxingScene.com through a translator, of his unified title challenge versus Los Angeles’ Roman (27-2-1, 10KOs) which takes place Thursday evening live on DAZN from Meridian at Island Gardens in Miami, Florida. “To become the first unified world champion ever from my country is really some great history for me to make.
“This will be a dream come true for me, and it’s the most important fight of my career for everything that is on the line.”
A win on Thursday will place the 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist in exclusive company, sharing the mark for becoming a unified titlist in the fewest amount of fights. The current standalone record was established nearly 42 years ago, when 1976 Olympic Gold medalist and then 7-0 upstart Leon Spinks scored a stunning upset of Muhammad Ali to become World heavyweight champion—with the World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA) straps along for the ride in just his eighth pro fight.
More stunning that Akhmadaliev’s realistic chance of matching that statistical achievement is the fact that he could have enjoyed the record all to himself.
The bout was originally due to take place last September, only for Roman—who has won 19 straight as he aims to make the fifth defense of at least one title—to suffer tendinitis in his left shoulder, which put him on the shelf for two months.
Rather than just settle for one fight in 2019 while awaiting a new date, Akhmadaliev—who is expertly guided by manager Vadim Kornilov and World of Boxing—went through with his planned appearance on the DAZN-streamed show last September in New York City. A 4th round stoppage of late replacement Wilner Soto served its purpose in keeping him active and ready for his first title shot, although forcing him into a position where his next win will allow him to share history on the global front.
It’s a scenario they will gladly take, with such an aggressive approach right out the gate quite typical for the stable among which Akhmadaliev resides.
“What I love about World of Boxing, [Andriy] Rabinsky and Vadim [Kornilov], they will put these guys in,” Eddie Hearn, who co-promotes both fighters, told BoxingScene.com. “MJ has had seven fights and hasn’t really boxed anyone that tells you, he’s ready for the world titles right now. But he’s a phenomenal talent, and Daniel Roman does get hit. You can’t get hit too many times by this kid because he really fancies this and he could be really special.
“This could really be the fight of the night.”
That would be the only aspect of the evening which the young challenger doesn’t wish to pursue.
“People look at our records and think that I am inexperienced, that Danny will knock me out because it’s too soon for me,” observes Akhmadaliev. “But I know what I fight for [tonight] and believe me, I am ready. I’m not here to talk about what I am going to do (tonight). I love to fight and I can’t wait for this fight and the chance to make history.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox