Back in September we had expected to turn our attention to Madison Square Garden Theater for an excellent Super Bantamweight world title bout, pitting unified champion Daniel Roman (27-2-1, 19) against mandatory challenger Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6). Sadly in the build up the champion was injured and the bout was forced to be delayed, and rescheduled. With it being eventually pushed back to late January. Despite the delay we are now on course for the brilliant looking match up.
The 29 year old champion, who has unified the WBA "super" and IBF Super Bantamweight titles will be making his first defense of the IBF belt and his fifth defense of the WBA crown, the first as the super champion. For Akhmadaliev, who is mandatory for the WBA title, the bout will be his first at world level as he looks to join a select few to win a world title in just his 8th professional bout.
Roman has become one of the sports most interesting champions. He won the title in 2017, stopping Shun Kubo, and announcing himself on the world stage. Prior to that win he had been knocking on the door, with wins over the likes of Adam Lopez, Christopher Martin and Christian Esquivel though it's been since winning the title that he has really impressed. After winning the belt in Japan, stopping Kubo, he returned and beat Ryo Matsumoto before beating Mosies Flores and Gavin McDonnell. Those wins built momentum, and that momentum lead to a unification bout with the then IBF champion TJ Doheny this past April. That bout was something special, with Roman dropping Doheny twice, but having the Irish-Australian warrior coming back at him with real drive and vigour. Over 12 rounds Roman did enough to win the bout and unify the belts.
After 2 losses in his first 11 bouts Roman could have been written off, though he has battled back hard, winning 19 in a row, unifying titles, taking chances and becoming the star of Thompson Boxing. The way he has turned his career around has been amazing and the fact he's travelled to Japan for 2 of those wins, and has taken 5 unbeaten records in his last 7 fights shows he isn't scared of a challenge. What Roman does really well is work. His output is excellent, he's technically solid with his shots, and despite throwing a lot he doesn't waste many. They aren't always the sharpest, or the hardest, but they are solid shots, and his engine is excellent. He combines that energy with a really gritty toughness, and although he can be hurt he grits it out, recovers quickly and comes back. If a fighter hurts him it really does seem like they should go all out to take him down, rather than give him a chance to clear the cobwebs.
Although Roman was a good amateur, which is something we don't hear much about strangely, Akhmadaliev was a sensational amateur. The Uzbek was a World Amateur Champion silver medal winner, an Olympic bronze medal winner a multi-time medal winner on the Asian and Uzbek scenes and recorded around 300 amateur wins. It's that amateur foundation that has seen him being fast-tracked through the professional ranks. In just his 4th professional contest he took on the then 15-6 Ramon Contreras for the WBA Inter-Continental title, then defended it against the world ranked IsaacZarate, to earn the mandatory position towards the end of last year. By that point he had been a professional for around 8 months! To tick over earlier this year he destroyed former world title challenger Carlos Carlson in 3 rounds.
Although a stellar amateur Akhmadaliev doesn't always fight like an amateur, in fact from the off he had a more professional style, with an aggressive mentality and almost a seek and destroy gameplan. He is constantly on the front foot, looking to break opponents down and although a touch reckless he is smart with his aggression.He's a fighter who seems to truly believe he's special, and not just because his team tell him he is. For a Super Bantamweight he's a solid puncher, he's exciting, but he is stepping up massively, from the likes of Isaac Zarate to Daniel Roman.
We'd love to see Akhmadaliev win here, setting his stall out as one of the kings of the Super Bantamweight divisions this quickly after his debut, and at just 25 years old. Sadly however we do feel it's too much too soon, and his lack of experience over the longer distance will be an issue. He's certainly has a chance against Roman, and if he's as good as he believes it's a really good chance, but we suspect he comes up short here against a man who remains one of boxing's most under-rated world champions. Worst yet for the Uzbek, we see him being ground down by Roman's pressure in the later stages, suffering a late TKO loss in a painful and gruelling defeat
Prediction- TKO11 Roman
Last September American Daniel Roman (23-2-1, 9) announced himself on the world stage with a stoppage win over Shun Kubo to claim the WBA Super Bantamweight title in Kyoto. The win saw Roman score his 15th straight win and step up massively from victories over the likes of Christopher Martin, Christian Esquivel and Adam Lopez. This coming Wednesday he'll return to a Japanese ring, this time as a champion as he faces off with touted Ohashi gym fighter Ryo Matsumoto (21-1, 19).
The American had been a solid amateur amateur before turning professional at the age of 20. As a professional he struggled early on, with a draw and a defeat in his first 4 bouts. After 11 bouts he was 8-2-1 but since then he has matured into a real handful. He's a skilled fighter, with a high activity rate, good body punching and a smart pressure style. It's not the intense pressure we see from the like of Gennady Golovkin or Srisaket Sor Rungvisai but more of a constant and intelligent pressure that takes a mental toll and comes from his jab and timing. There's nothing “blunt force” about Roman, and he's not going to KO people with with one shot, but he's going to mentally break them and wear them down.
Although not a power puncher, and with just 9 stoppages in 26 fights no one would argue other wise, Roman is a solid puncher and has stopped 4 of his last 6. Notably he has stopped his last 2 foes both in round 9 and seems to be showing more self belief in his power, with his work rate being a huge asset in those stoppages. It's unclear how good his chin is, and he's not the quickest, but he knows what works for him and is using his tools to get outcomes.
At 27 years old Roman is reaching his physical peak and as he continues to mature he will almost certainly add to his physical strength and power. He will never become a KO guy but with his pressure style the physical development he makes will make him tougher to defeat and even harder to try and force backwards. It's also worth noting that despite looking like a solid Super Bantamweight it does seem like he does make the weight quite easily, and could beef up just a touch to really push the divisional limit and fill out his frame a tiny bit more.
Aged 24 Matsumoto is a young gun, but appears to have been around for a very long time. That's because he actually debuted at the very end of 2011, aged 17, and has slowly been developed into a world class fighter. And by slowly we really do mean slowly. He looked ready to be let off the leash in 2015, following wins over Hiroyuki Kudaka, Denkaosan Kaovichit and Rusalee Samor the previous year, but was held back. Sadly for Matsumoto his rise hit the wall in 2016 when he suffered a shock loss to Victor Uriel Lopez. That loss was a major hit to Matsumoto's rise, but was a blessing in disguise with the youngster later receiving treatment for a medical issue that affected him in the contest. Since then he has looked better than even, avenging his loss, and noticing a significant growth spurt.
In the ring Matsumoto is a joy to watch. He combines silky smooth skills with brilliant speed, brutal power, and lovely shot selection. He's not a brawler but when he has an opponent hurt he lets his hands go very freely whilst at range he boxes well behind a razor sharp jab,with some blazing straight right hands. There is defensive flaws with Matsumoto but offensively he is a machine and his blow out against Hideo Sakamoto last year was truly impressive. Not only has he got the skills but he also has the team, with the Ohashi team being one of the best in Japan, if not the world, and will have seen him training with Naoya Inoue and Takuma Inoue as well as Akira Yaegashi and Satoshi Shimizu, all of whom are excellent fighters. Like so many young Japanese fighters he looks natural in the ring and has an incredible amount of composure and understanding in the ring.
Stylistically the Japanese fighter is a boxer-puncher. Despite being 24 he looks like a fighter who is still filling out his frame and maturing. When he completely develops into his body he'll likely be fighting at Featherweight, but for now he's just got the look of a boy, still, and not a man. That hasn't been an issue yet, but could be in the future.
Sadly for Matsumoto this is looking like a really test for the once beaten Japanese fighter. His style is somewhat made to order for Roman, with the American likely to apply his pressure and look to break down the Japanese fighter. What Matsumoto does have, that Kubo didn't, is the heavy hands that could stop Roman in his tracks, and the body punching to go with it. We're expecting to see Roman start slowly, box behind his jab and the speed of Matsumoto will give him a lot to think about. Eventually though Roman will drag Matsumoto into a war, and we suspect Roman will come out on top, but will be given a much, much harder bout than he was against Kubo. Matsumoto has long deserved a shot against a world class fighter, but this feels like a stylistically bad fight for him. He has the chance to shine, but we think Roman will have the tools to deal with him.
Currently the Super Bantamweight division is one of the most fractured in the sport, and as a result it's a bit of a frustrating mess to follow. Guillermo Rigondeaux, the WBA “super” champion looks set to jump to Super Featherweight for his next bout, WBO champion Jessie Magdaleno has yet to make his first defense, IBF champion Yukinori Oguni makes his first defense later this month, WBC champion Rey Vargas recently made his first defense and this weekend we see WBA “regular” champion Shun Kubo (12-0, 9) make his first defense.
Whilst the division is a mess, it's one which is thoroughly brilliant at the moment, with a nice mixture of veterans, Nonito Donaire and Rigondeaux, as well as fresh blood, like Kubo and Oguni, and almost every style. We have pure boxers, sluggers, bangers and hybrids making up the stacked top 20 in what, potentially, is the most interesting,yet frustrating, division in the sport right now.
Kubo's first defense, this coming Sunday, will see the Hyogo man defending his belt against mandatory challenger Daniel Roman (22-2-1, 8) in what is a really interesting looking match up, that pits two fighters with a lot of questions to answer, against each other on.
Aged 27 Kubo is one of a number of Japanese fighters who has moved through the ranks swiftly. As an amateur he was less than spectacular, running up a 30-18 record, but beat veteran Monico Laurente in his third bout and the world ranked Luis May in his 6th bout to announce himself as one to watch. An OPBF title win in 2015 opened doors for Kubo to progress his career and after just two defenses his team paid to bring tricky veteran Nehomar Cermeno over to Japan to defend the WBA crown. The bout with Cermeno was a real gut test for Kubo, but one that saw him out lasting the veteran, who retired citing injury at the start of round 10.
Against Cermeno we saw Kubo show off some world class skills, but almost come undone following a knockdown, go through a torrid spell and show some self doubt as Cermeno used his experience to come on strong. Now the question to answer for Kubo is how much did he learn and develop from that tough win? Is he going to come undone under pressure again or will the win have boosted his confidence?
Also aged 27 Roman is a fighter looking to make his mark on the sport and continue a 14 fight winning streak that began back in March 2014. During his current run has has scored a number of notable wins, including victories over Christopher Martin, Christian Esquivel and the unbeaten pairing of Marlon Olea and Adam Lopez. Whilst it's a nice record, and one that proves Roman is top contender, it lacks a major A class win and it's hard to know exactly how good he is, and we could see that being answered here.
From watching footage of Roman he's a technically well schooled fighter who has nice textbook boxing ability, and solid, but unspectacular speed. Where he lacks are power and he has been out boxed before by lesser fighters. It's also worth noting that whilst he's not “short” for the weight he is going to be giving away some significant size, with Kubo being a freakish Super Bantamweight, who will look to use his height and reach to neutralise the jab of Roman.
Roman is a very solid boxer, but the reality here is that he is stepping up massively here to face someone who has the home advantage and all the physical advantages. Roman is more experienced, and was a more accomplished amateur fighter, but it's hard to see what he has to beat Kubo. Unless he can land a bomb on Kubo we suspect the champion will record his first defense, and could well find himself becoming the target of domestic rivals like Yusaku Kuga and Hinata Maruta.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.