Whilst many bouts featured in our Treasure Trove series are rather obscure, and not particularly well known, not all of them are and today's Treasure Trove bout is one of the most notable bouts from 2020. In fact it's one of the bouts that should have been included in any legitimate "Bout of the Year" short list from the major media outlets, but because it took place in January 2020, it was really forgotten by the end of the year. Especially given how boxing was put on the back burner just a few weeks later.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6) vs Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 10)
Over the past few years the Super Bantamweight division has been slowly, but surely bringing through a new era of fighters as the division has repeatedly shifted it's focus from big names and established fighters, to newer younger fighters. Whilst that was happening there wasn't really any focus point for the division, which was in many a good thing, as it was a division that had really spent a while not doing much.
As we entered 2020 there were two men to focus on at the top of the division. One of those was the exciting Emanuel Navarrete, though he was a man who's time in the division seemed very limited and he would leave the division later in the year, and there was IBF and WBA "Super" champion Daniel Roman.
Roman had done everything he could to get his head above the rest and to show his ability globally. He had won the WBA title in Japan, beating Shun Kubo, had defended it in Japan against Ryo Matsumoto and then returned to the US for two more defenses before unifying with a 2019 FOTY contender against TJ Doheny, in which Roman won the IBF title. In his first defense of the unified titles he took on the rising Murodjon Akhmadaliev. In the ring Roman was a tough, exciting fighter, who didn't hit hard, but hit a lot, and really was a high tempo, high schooled fighter who had real grit, determination and an amazing will to win. He had long been under-rated and was now starting to get the respect he deserved.
Akhmadaliev was one of the many rising hopefuls in the division, and had been moved a lot more aggressively than any of the others. He, along with Stephen Fulton, Brandon Figueroa, Carlos Castro and Angelo Leo, looked like the new generation of fighters that the division needed. They weren't big names going into the year, though they were all expected to be part of the scramble to become the #1 man in the division. As part of that scramble Akhamadaliev had the first major opportunity as he took on Roman for the unified throne, in just his 8th professional bout. He had been a fantastic amateur, but had only been a professional for around 2 years and had only fought 28 professional rounds prior to this bout.
Heading in to this bout there was a genuine sense of excitement and anticipation. Could Akhmadaliev really be this special this early in his career? Was Roman going to have the experience and tools to over-come the confident upstart? From the off fans had a sense of anticipation and it was genuinely a fight that delivered.
The opening round was faster than a typical opening round. It wasn't a war, or an all out slugfest of an opening round, but it was a high tempo start to the bout, with both men boxing really well, and both showing some really high level stuff. Both were respectful of the other and both mixed stuff up really nice. For the most part Akhmadaliev was on the front foot, putting the pressure on, but Roman picked his spots well and it was a really close round fought at an incredible level.
In round 2 we saw the tempo step up again, as Akhmadaliev picked up his work rate, and forced Roman to come with him. This resulted in a genuinely brilliant round that saw Akhmadaliev being tagged early on, before recomposing himself and getting his own shots off. It was a continuation of the high level action of the opening round, with both men picking some fantastic shots, but it was high level action with an offensive edge. Both men were happy to lets shots fly, neither seemed happy to just sit back and instead both wanted to prove they could fight coming forward as well as going backwards.
The tempo again picked up in round 3, with Roman likely 2-0 and knowing he had to turn the heat up. It was heat that Akhmadaliev coped with without too many issues, and as the round went on he came back into the round himself, picking some sensational combinations and looking very composed for such a professional novice. Roman was having plenty of success but it never fazed Akhmadaliev who seemed very comfortable, and showed his brilliant amateur pedigree.
In round 4 Roman began to get a foot hold in the bout, amping up his pressure, working the body, and it seemed like momentum began to shift in the middle rounds. The champion was beginning to find his grove and it seemed to be at the right time. After all Akhmadaliev had only been beyond 6 rounds once, and there were question marks about his gas tank. The body work and extra aggression of Roman continued to play a factor through the middle rounds, along with some brilliant uppercuts that he used when Akhmadaliev left a gap up top. It was a sign that the champion had got a read on the challenger and that the momentum was turning.
Going into final rounds the scores could easily have been all over the place, though Akhmadaliev seemed to do enough in rounds 10 and 11 to take them. Albeit narrowly.
Heading into the final round it was clear this was a close one. Both men had had some great success at times, but it was going to be a hard one to confident say who was winning. Akhmadaliev had started so well, before Roman came back. And then Akhmadaliev gritted his teeth and showed his fire in the later stages, but was it enough for him to be in the lead?
Prior to the final round Roman's corner seemed unsure if their man was up, and told him he had to go for it. It seemed however that Akhmadaliev had been told it was in the bag as he got on his bike, a very risky strategy and one that could have bit him in the backside. Through the entire final round Akhmadaliev threw very little and let Roman dictate the round, until the dying seconds when Akhmadaliev finally let his hands go. By then he had given away the round. In fact it was the clearest round of the fight and the only one that seemed impossible to make any case of going the other way.
At the bell Roman celebrated, likely feeling the final round had been enough to see him keep the title, even if it was going to be a draw.
The three judges all turned in scores cards reading 115-113, showing just how close and competitive this was. Though thankfully for Akhmadaliev all 2 of those cards favoured him, crowning him the new champion in just his 8th bout. It was, however, a nail biter. A razor thin, highly competitive, totally compelling, highly skilled, high tempo chess match. This was brilliant... and sadly because it took part in January, was all but forgotten by fans come the "awards season" in December.
The Super Bantamweight isn't overly reliant on just the top guys, as there are some excellent fighters coming through the ranks and forcing themselves into the mix as legitimate contenders. It's here that the division really does it's self some massive favours. Not only is there a lot of contenders, but they are very varied in how they fight, and their experience.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6)
Former Uzbek amateur standout Murodjon Akhmadaliev is leading the charge for contenders and will be getting his shot, at unified champion Danny Roman no less, at the end of January. The talented "MJ" is a heavy handed boxer-puncher who really was an exceptional amateur before turning professional and being fast tracked through the ranks, to a mandatory title fight. Despite the amateur pedigree Akhmadaliev hasn't fought like an amateur, and is instead a very aggressive fighter who is very fun to watch. A real emerging gem, who could be on the verge of something very big this year.
Hiroaki Teshigawara (21-2-2, 14)
Heavy handed Japanese boxer-puncher Hiroaki Teshigawara has really made himself into a legitimate contender in the last few years, after almost an unknown in 2016. Prior to his loss to Ryo Akaho in October 2016 few would have paid much attention to Teshigawara but since then he has gone 9-0 (8) and picked up notable wins against Keita Kurihara, Jason Canoy, Teiru Kinoshita and Shohei Omori. Those wins have helped put "Crush Boy" on the verge of a world title fight. Although gifted with heavy hands Teshigawara is more than just a puncher and utilises feints and peculiar angles and timing much better than most Japanese fighters.
Tramaine Williams (19-0-0-1, 6)
Unbeaten "Mighty Midget" Tramaine Williams has promised a lot since his 2012 debut, and it's really time the 27 year old broke through. The talented southpaw is lightning quick, hits much harder than his record suggests and is a real natural talent. Sadly his progress hasn't been anywhere near as quick as it should have been, but with 4 fights in 2019 he now has the momentum to have a big 2020. If Williams can be focused on the sport and get the support from promoters that he needs he could become a genuine contender this year, and he appears to be a genuine a genuine nightmare to fight.
Angelo Leo (19-0, 9)
Few men made the moves that Angelo Leo made in 2019 to move from prospect to contender. "El Chinito" went 4-0 during the year and scored notable wins over Mark John Yap and Cesar Juarez, stopping Juarez in 11 rounds, to put himself on the map. The 25 year old hits harder than his record suggests, is highly skilled, quick, exciting and looks a natural in the ring. Although he's maybe a year away from a title fight we would expect a big 2020 for Leo who will almost certainly end the year on the verge of a world title fight. Do not sleep on this very talented youngster.
Ronnie Rios (32-3, 16)
It seems hard to believe that Ronny Rios has only just turned 30! The upset minded veteran has been a professional for over a decade and despite some mixed results he has repeatedly shown that he can pull it out the big wins and be involved in the upper levels of the division. With wins over Rico Ramos, Andrew Cancio, Jayson Velez and Deigo De La Hoya it's hard to write Rios off against anyone. He'll almost certainly get a another shot at a world title and he could, on his day, upset any of the champions.
Carlos Castro (24-0, 10)
The 25 year old Carlos Castro isn't a big name but he's someone who has started to knock on the door of the division. The skilled boxer-mover scored a notable upset last year, over Genesis Servania, where he made the Filipino look very slow and clumsy, and is maybe only 3 or 4 fights away from becoming a legitimate contender. We'd like to see Castro face a couple of opponents of some note this year and really earn his shot. He's a legitimate hopeful, who has remained under the radar, some how.
Mike Plania (23-1, 12)
Unheralded Filipino Mike Plania is one of the many hidden gems from the Philippines, and one who should be on the radar of fight fans. If he's not he will be. The 22 year old "Magic" has notched 8 wins since his 2018 loss to Juan Carlos Payano and looks to be edging his way to another big fight in the US. From his last 5 bouts 4 have been in the US, and it'll only be a matter of time before his handlers let him off the leash and put him in there with a fellow contender. Although not a huge puncher Plania hits hard enough to get respect from opponents, is well schooled and is certainly someone who will begin to get a lot of eyes on him in the near future.
Thomas Patrick Ward (29-0, 4)
Englishman Thomas Patrick Ward is one of the fighters that belong the long list of fighters who should be better known than they are. The 25 year old is backed by MTK and is skilled enough to be in the world title mix. Sadly his team haven't yet backed him in the way they should and he's been unable to build on the momentum his 2019 win over Jesse Angel Hernandez. If MTK really believe in Ward they now need to put their money where their mouth is and pay for him for him to face fellow contenders and move him forward. His last 3 opponents were awful and he needs better. Ward lacks power but has a brilliant boxing brain, fantastic skills, great movement and understand of the ring. Now he just needs some suitable dance partners.
Luis Nery (30-0, 24)
Controversial Mexican fighter Luis Nery continued to drag his name through the mud in 2019 by missing weight for a WBC Bantamweight title eliminator. With that weight issue rearing it's head again it's clear he needs to move to Super Bantamweight, where he will actually be able to fight without expecting opponents to bend over to accommodate him. The exciting and heavy handed southpaw will make an interesting addition at 1222lbs, though we do wonder if his weight bullying tactics will have the same effect here as they did at Bantamweight. Nery, despite all his issues, is a talent and he can be involved in some thrilling contests down the line, but he really needs to sort his career out. This year he needs to put all the issues with weight behind him, leave the Bantamweight division, and go make his mark at Super Bantamweight.
3 bouts we want in 2020:
Emanuel Navarrete vs Hiroaki Teshigawara
Rey Vargas Vs Thomas Patrick Ward
Angelo Leo Vs Tramaine Williams
Currently the contenders in the Super Featherweight division are some of the most interesting, with a large number of former champions along with a good mixture of upcoming talent and recognised contenders.
If you missed our look at the division's champions that's available to read here - The state of the Division - Super Bantamweight - The Champions
Isaac Dogboe (20-1, 14)
Former WBO champion Isaac Dogboe had a huge 2018, stopping Cesar Juarez, Jessie Magdaleno and Hidenori Otake before losing the WBO belt in December to Emanuel Navarrete. At the age of 24 the British based Ghanaian has a long time to bounce back and may even find himself moving down a weight class, as he is small, but very powerful, at 122lbs. Dogboe is an exciting and likable fighter, but he really did take a beating to Navarette and it could be a while before we see him fighting at the top-level again.
Jessie Magdaleno (25-1, 15)
From one former WBO champion to another, Jessie Magdaleno was the man that Dogboe took the title from in April in what was a pulsating 12 round fight that saw both men being dropped. Although Magdaleno started well, dropping Dogboe in the first round, he was eventually broken down himself. The Nevada resident was one tipped as a future star, but he seems to have fallen short of reaching super stardom. He is, however, a talented fighter who will likely rebuild towards a second world title fight in the near future.
Ryosuke Iwasa (25-3, 18)
Staying with former champions Japan's hard hitting Ryosuke Iwasa is a former IBF champion, who lost the belt in August to TJ Doheny. Iwasa is a hard hitting southpaw who is managed by the Celes gym in Tokyo and is expected to climb back up towards a world title fight in 2019. Iwasa is an exciting puncher, but failed to really shine after winning the IBF title, going through the motions against Ernesto Saulong and then losing the belt to TJ Doheny. If he can perform like he did in his title winning effort he could be very hard to beat, but we've only seen glimpses of that talent.
Yukinori Oguni (20-2-1, 8)
The man Iwasa ripped the IBF title off was fellow Japanese fighter Yukinori Oguni, whose reign was a short one but had seen him defeat Jonathan Guzman for the belt. After losing to Iwasa in 2017 Oguni retired, before returning in December 2018, having had surgery and a good rest. He didn't look amazing on his return, with a lot of ring rust showing, but looked excellent with his body shots and it's clear that he's looking to progress quickly through 2019 and may well end up finding himself getting another world title fight by the end of the year.
Shingo Wake (25-5-2, 17)
Another talented Japanese fighter at Super Bantamweight is sharp shitting Shingo Wake, a charismatic boxer-puncher who is best known for being stopped by Jonathan Guzman in an IBF title fight. Despite the stoppage loss to Guzman, which forced Wake to have considerable time away from the ring to recover, he has looked great on his return to the ring and stoppage Yusaku Kuga in 2019, to claim the Japanese national title. Wake has publicly called for a fight with Tomoki Kameda, but will likely have to wait for a shot at the top. His next bout is scheduled for January 19th, against Takafumi Nakajima, as he attempts to avenge one of his 5 defeats.
Shohei Omori (20-2, 15)
One more Japanese southpaw at the weight is Shohei Omori, a former world title challenger at Bantamweight who moved up in weight following his second loss to Marlon Tapales. The talented and exciting Omori looked like a future world champion before running into Tapales the first time, but bounced back and had a rematch, that saw him being broken down in a damaging less that saw him suffering a bad facial injury. Since moving up he's looked fantastic, with the same speed and power that he had at Bantamweight, and potentially more durability. It's going to be very fun to see how he is at the top-level of the division.
Franklin Manzanilla (18-4, 17)
Little known Venezuelan Franklin Manzanilla is pencilled in for a world title fight with the WBC champion Rey Vargas in February, in what will be a huge bout for Manzanilla. He's got his shot following an unexpected win over Julio Ceja back in May 2018, that win aside he really doesn't have any wins of note and has lost to the likes of Belmar Preciado, who was recently stopped by Hiroshige Osawa. We'll learn a lot about Manzanilla when he takes on Vargas, though we can't see him putting up much of a test to the Mexican world champion.
Deigo De La Hoya (21-0, 10)
Unbeaten American hopeful Deigo De La Hoya has proven that he's not only known because of his relationship with Oscar De La Hoya, but also because he's an excellent fighter himself. The 24 year old Mexican has been banging on the door of a world title fight for a while, and has picked up very credible wins over Luis Orlando Del Valle, Randy Caballero and Jose Salgado, albeit a Salgado who was fighting well above his best weight. He's talented, quick, has a good boxing brain and could go a long way, it's just a case of seeing whether the 24 year old can add some power to his game before he challenges for a world title.
Lodumi Lamati (14-0-1, 9)
As with many South African contenders Lodumi Lamati looks to be a potential hidden gem. Dubbed "9mm" Lamati has already scored notable wins over Luis Melendez and Alexis Boureima Kabore. Sadly he's yet to fight outside of South Africa, though hopefully that happens in the new year and he continues his development. Footage of Lamati is limited, but he looks sharp, accurate and quick and is expected to have a big fight early in 2019.
Cesar Juarez (23-6, 17)
Mexican veteran Cesar Juarez is a 27 year old contender who really deserves a lot more attention than he gets. He first came to the attention of the hardcore fans in 2015, with notable wins over Cesar Seda and Juan Carlos Sanchez, before pushing Nonito Doinaire all the way in a thrilling FOTY contender. Since losing to Donaire Juarez has gone 6-2, including notable wins over Albert Pagara, Richard Pumicpic and Jorge Sanchez, as well as losing to Isaac Dogboe.
Albert Pagara (31-1, 22)
Having just mentioned Cesar Juarez it makes sense to talk about Albert Pagara, who suffered his only loss to Juarez and is likely wanting to avenge that loss one day. The talented Pagara looked like a future world champion in the making early in his career, but the loss to Juarez really slowed his assent. Since the loss Pagara has won 5 bouts in a row, but has been in with limited competition and now needs a step up in class. At 24 he has time to develop but shouldn't be given any more knock over jobs, he's simply too good for that level of competition.
Abigail Medina (19-4-2, 10)
Spanish based Dominican Abigail Medina recently lost a clear, but competitive, decision to Tomoki Kameda in a bout for the WBC "interim" title. The early part of the bout saw Medina look unable to cope with Kameda's speed, but later gave Kameda hell, showing that he belonged to stay in the title mix. Medinina had been on a good run before the bout with Kameda, including wins over Jeremy Parodi, Martin Ward and Anthony Settoul. He's not an elite level fighter, but certainly deserves a second shot, if he can continue to pick up decent scalps.
Murodjon Akhmadaliev (5-0, 4)
Last, but certainly not least, is 24 year old Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev. The talented, exciting and hard hitting Akhmadaliev only turned professional earlier this year but has raced off to winning the WBA Inter Continental title and is ranked #1 by the WBA. A world title shot is expected in 2019, and we can't help but feel that Akhmadaliev has the potential to win a win a belt as early as his next fight. Unfortunately for him we think the champion he seems to be targeting, Danny Roman, is the toughest champion in the division and the one who could pose him the most problems. He's powerful, hard hitting, fast and unorthordox, and incredibly exciting to watch.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.