Murodjon Akhmadaliev hoped to make a statement as the junior featherweight division continues to take shape.
The defending WBA/IBF champ settled for a landslide win, easily outpointing late replacement Jose Velasquez over twelve rounds. Judge Glenn Feldman (119-109), John Madfis (119-109) and Eddie Scuncio (119-109) all ruled in favor of Akhmadaliev in their DAZN televised title fight Friday evening from SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Akhmadaliev spent the entirety of his training camp preparing for mandatory challenger Ronny Rios, who was a late scratch after testing positive for Covid. The Uzbek southpaw wasn’t about to let all of that work go to waste, flying out of the gate and unloading on an overmatched Velasquez early. Straight left hands landed with frightening regularity, with Velasquez unable to do little more than absorb.
Action remained one way, though with Velasquez picking up the pace no matter how unsuccessful his effort. Akhmadaliev boxed more from the outside in round two before inching his way closer. Velasquez missed wildly with left hooks, some which Akhmadaliev slipped while other times countering with ripping body shots.
Time was called in round four to allow Velasquez to replace his dislodged mouthpiece. The Chilean contender was marked up by that point, swelling rapidly developing under his right eye and with little hope of turning the fight in his favor.
Akhmadaliev worked his jab and straight left hand in a slow-paced round five. Velasquez followed the unified titlist around the ring, perfectly in place to get tagged with combination punching in the final 0:30 of the round.
Referee Luis Pabon disciplined Akhmadaliev in round six, warning him for pulling down on the back of Velasquez’s head. Akhmadaliev obliged, shooting his jab and firing combinations to the body. Velasquez smothered Akhmadaliev in an effort to disrupt his offensive flow, though not attempting—much less landing—anything of consequence.
As much was communicated in between rounds to Velasquez, who came out inspired at the start of round seven. The longshot underdog landed a right hand early, drawing a rise out of his team and among the fans in attendance who managed to stick with the action in a fight that otherwise failed to maintain the crowd’s interest. Velasquez went on to enjoy his most—if not only—dominant round of the fight.
Akhmadaliev went back to basics in round eight, fighting behind the jab and following with lefts. Velasquez stood center ring, literally pounding hist chest and midsection in daring Akhmadaliev to stand and trade. The unbeaten titlist granted his wish, responding with a wicked body shot only to draw a second warning for pushing down Velasquez’s head.
Velasquez took the lead in round nine, even if most of his punches were blocked by Akhmadaliev. Right hands by Velasquez caught the arms of Akhmadaliev, who fired one-twos at close range before readjusting his desired distance between the two. Akhmadaliev closed the round with two vicious straight lefts to the body, bookending a left hand to Velasquez’s chin.
Pabon issued two more warnings to Akhmadaliev in round ten, once each for shoving Velasquez to the canvas and then using his shoulder to create distance between the two. Akhmadaliev’s corner was brought into the discussion to relay that the next infraction would result in a point deduction.
With the fight well out of reach, Velasquez swung wildly in hopes of landing a fight-ending shot in the twelfth and final round. Akhmadaliev wouldn’t allow that moment to occur, playing defense when necessary and then shooting left hands behind a double jab. Velasquez was unable to keep pace, constantly tying up in the inside. Akhmadaliev closed the round with several power shots upstairs.
Not even the sound of the final bell could discourage Velasquez, who closed the night with pushups and a backflip before accepting his fate. The loss sends his record to 29-7-2 (19KOs), ending a 21-fight win streak.
Akhmadaliev advances to 10-0 (7KOs) with the win, making his second unified title defense since his thrilling 12-round win over Danny Roman last January. The hope for the unbeaten champ is the winner of next Saturday’s WBC/WBO unification bout between Brandon Figueroa—Akhmadaliev’s stablemate under trainer Joel Diaz—and Stephen Fulton.
Headlining the evening, two-divisions and reigning WBO middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade (30-0, 18KOs)—Reis’ longtime, childhood friend from Providence—faces Ireland’s Jason Quigley (19-1, 14KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox