Unified WBA and IBF world super-bantamweight champion Daniel Roman faces dangerous WBA mandatory contender Murodjon Akhmadaliev at the Meridian at Island Gardens, Miami on Thursday, 30th January. The fight will be streamed live by DAZN in the USA and shown on Sky Sports in The UK.
Roman (27-2-1, 10 Ko's) was due to face Uzbekistan's Akhmadaliev (7-0-0, 6 Ko's) in September but was forced to pull out due to a shoulder injury. Akhmadaliev went on to face Wilner Soto (22-6-0) on the Devin Haney vs Zaur Abdullaev undercard, scoring an emphatic 4th round Tko.
2016 Olympian Akhmadaliev is a real danger man to anyone in the 122lb division even though he has only 7 professional fights under his belt, his extensive amateur background saw him win silver at the Doha 2015 world championships and bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. His punching power is a big worry for Roman who tends to get involved in toe-toe exchanges at times when he could instead box more from distance.
The 25-year-old Akhmadaliev still fights with his old amateur style, bouncing in and out of range. He likes to throw long fast hooks and uppercuts while not falling into a distance where the opposition could grab and hold. He uses angles constantly to prise open his opponent's defence and delivers very fast looping punches that can do damage.
Danny Roman has become an all-rounder during his 9-years as a professional. Two losses and a draw in his first 11 bouts served to teach the native of Los Angeles, California valuable lessons about what he needed to do to mix with the 122lb elite.
In 2017 Roman travelled to Japan to challenge WBA champion Shun Kubo, winning the title by 9th round Tko. He went back to Japan 5 months later to defend against Ryo Matsumoto, winning by a wide unanimous decision. Further successful defences on home soil against Moises Flores (UD Decision), and Gavin McDonnell (Tko 10), led to a unification match against Australian based Irishman, and IBF belt holder TJ Doheny. In a fight of the year candidate, Roman dropped Doheny in the 2nd and 11th rounds before going on to win by majority decision.
The Doheny win proved Roman's pedigree as champion. He is so much better than he looks at times. A back-handed compliment for sure, but watch his control of distance and you start to realise that although he has a conventional style he rarely lets you get to set, always making you give ground even though he tends to leap in with the right-hand, and when you do meet him head-on he always lands first.
Akhmadaliev has faster feet and it will be interesting to see if he can take advantage of Roman's slower footwork by feinting, taking a half step back and countering the American's attacks.
There is little doubt that Roman will lose some of the early rounds but the key to beating Akhmadaliev is effective and persistent pressure which will take away his advantage in speed. Roman is a proven 12 round fighter whereas Akhmadaliev has yet to go past 8 completed rounds, so expect to see Roman come on strong in the last half of the fight.
Akhmadaliev's southpaw stance won't trouble the champion excessively as Roman has a strong straight back-hand.
Prediction: Roman to win by decision.