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Staff picks and predictions: Andrade vs Keeler, Farmer vs Diaz, Roman vs Akhmadaliev

Three world title fights highlight Thursday’s DAZN card.

Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA

This Thursday evening streaming live on DAZN from Super Bowl central in Miami, we’ve got three world title fights and a YouTube novelty.

Our staffers make their picks for the three world title fights.

Daniel Roman vs Murodjon Akhmadaliev

Scott Christ

I love this matchup. Akhmadaliev was a good amateur but may be even better suited to the pro ranks, where his power and aggression come into play more. Roman is a scrappy guy proven at this level as more than a flash in the pan. Usually when we say “scrappy” it’s a way of saying a guy is limited but game, but Roman is just scrappy in the sense that he’s scrappy. He’s a good fighter and has a load of heart and determination. He’s one of my favorite guys in the sport right now.

So take that into account for my pick, I guess, because I’m taking the titleholder to retain here. I am most worried, in fact, about Roman’s shoulder injury that shelved this fight for a bit, as it was originally scheduled for last year. Roman says he’s fine and I want to believe that, but shoulder injuries for a boxer can be some real bad news.

Assuming Roman is 100 percent, I think he’s got the experience, grit, and body punching to slow Akhmadaliev down and take the Uzbek to the DEEP WATERS!!! possibly even with MAN STRENGTH!!! If it plays out the way I’m imagining, it’ll be a hell of a fight, too. Roman SD-12

Wil Esco

It’s been a great ride for nice guy Daniel Roman, but I’ll get off at this station. Roman is a true credit to the sport for his professionalism and kind demeanor, and I appreciate that, but he’s going up against a strong, young, and mean fighter in Murodjon Akhmadaliev. I’m not trying to suggest Roman isn’t tough or doesn’t have heart just because he’s a nice guy, but an inherent nasty streak can benefit fighters in the ring.

Akhmadaliev has a penchant to fight with his hands down and doesn’t have nearly the experience — especially championship experience — that Roman has, but I’m going to go against conventional wisdom and here and still take him to win. I think Akhmadaliev is just fresh and sharp enough to catch Roman, and physically strong enough to stand his ground and get the better of it during exchanges. I don’t think it’ll be easy, but I think Akhmadaliev manages to find a way to pull it out and lift the titles off Roman. Akhmadaliev UD-12

Patrick L. Stumberg

“MJ” is a delightfully strange fighter. He’s got the movement and patience you’d expect from a highly experienced and decorated amateur, but he throws his punches like your being conscious personally offends him. He definitely qualifies as a Vicious Little Bastard™, albeit one who can switch his brain back on when needed.

He’ll definitely need it here; Roman is a vicious pressure fighter with heaps of experience in long, grueling fights; for someone used to amateur fights and with no pro experience past the ninth round, that’s worrying for Akhmadaliev. Thing is, Roman showed some vulnerabilities in his war with TJ Doheny, eating several quality left hands and struggling to corral his foe until the body attack started to take effect; Akhmadaliev may not have Doheny’s experience, but he hits a fair bit harder. I say he does enough damage in the early rounds to eke out a decision despite Roman’s rib roasters taking his legs away late. Akhmadaliev SD-12

Lewis Watson

There’s a lot of noise around Akhmadaliev. The Olympic bronze medalist has made a perfect start to life in the pros blowing away 6 of his 7 victims; the biggest question is whether this step up to the seasoned, all-rounded Roman has come too soon for the standout amateur. “MJ” has a typical fluid amateur style, bouncing in and out of range using fluid, balanced footwork to set traps for his opponent before attacking. His power is evident, using detailed angles to pick apart his foes.

Roman is no pushover. He proved his guts and resilience in last year’s unification war against Doheny where he came to fight and came out on top. His relentless attacks to the body proved crucial, something that the champion may have to rely on to slow down the challenger this Thursday.

Roman’s experience will probably see him finish the stronger of the two, with Akhmadaliev only going nine rounds since turning over. Still, Akhmadaliev has the power to make the first half of the fight a struggle for the champion. A really tough one to call, this. Akhmadaliev SD-12

And the staff winner is...

Ed Mulholland/HBO

Murodjon Akhmadaliev (3-1)!

Tevin Farmer vs Joseph Diaz Jr

Scott Christ

I think this is pretty close to 50/50. I’m given pause by Diaz’ performance in his last outing, a majority decision win over Venezuelan gatekeeper Jesus Cuadro. That fight streamed on Facebook (which pissed Diaz off, as if it were a fight worthy of some more prestigious slot) and also went head-to-head with the monumental Quillin-Angulo FS1 card, so not a lot of people watched it, but Diaz really didn’t look sharp; he fought as if he were bored, which frankly he may have been. Sometimes guys fight down to competition if they’re frustrated in their career, and Diaz has been frustrated. He won three fights in 2019, two of which were the cupcakes expected, and the Cuadro fight was supposed to be another.

Farmer is slick and has solid ring IQ and isn’t afraid to mix it up despite a lack of punching power. He hasn’t lost since 2012. But straight up: whomst has he beaten? His best opponents over that run have been the likes of Kenichi Ogawa, Jono Carroll, Billy Dib, and Ivan Redkach. Listen, if you took away that 7-4-1 start in Farmer’s career, and started him from his win over John Willoughby in 2013, he’d be 23-0, but it would be a 23-0 that a lot of people aren’t convinced about because the opposition hasn’t been much.

If Diaz fights like he did in September, he will without a doubt lose, and it won’t even be that hard a night for Farmer. If he fights more like he has the rest of his pro career, he’s got a great shot here. These are both good fighters, neither of them unbeatable, both still with something to prove at this level.

I’ve waffled on this one a lot in the past few days, and since it was announced, really, but I’m going with Tevin. I just can’t get past Diaz’ last fight. I truly believe it might’ve just been a flat night (we’ve seen it happen many times to many fighters) and that Diaz absolutely can win this fight. But it makes me think Farmer — who is consistent, confident, and has a frustrating style — is the better bet to deliver at peak performance. I also have a strong feeling this is a swing I’ll regret not taking on the mild underdog. Farmer MD-12

Wil Esco

I think this one is really going to turn out to be a good fight, and this is the matchup I’ve had to give the most consideration thus far. Both fighters are kind of similar in that they’re southpaws that usually have a good pace while neither being tremendous punchers, and I believe that might make out for some sustained action and exchanges despite it being a technical fight. Since dropping a decision to Gary Russell Jr. a couple of years ago, Diaz has dialed it back in terms of competition level, but Farmer hasn’t exactly been taking on murderer’s row himself. So this will easily be the biggest test either fighter has faced in a long while.

The problem Diaz had against Russell was that he simply didn’t let his hands go enough while Russell was allowed to accumulate points. Diaz says he’s learned from that experience but I wonder if he might not freeze up a little on the big stage again. I suspect he won’t because there’s bad blood between he and Farmer, which should fuel some aggression, and I’m curious to see if he just goes for it if he feels he can just walk through Farmer’s punches. There’s a lot of ways this fight could play out, but with Farmer’s confidence at an all-time high I’m going to pick him to edge out a split decision in a close fight. Farmer SD-12

Patrick L. Stumberg

Extrapolating from a Gary Russell Jr. fight is always a risky endeavor; those stubby little turbine arms of his are a unique commodity. Diaz’s struggles seemed to come less from the speed and more from Russell’s jab, which did an excellent job of stopping “Jojo” in his tracks and muzzling his high-octane offense. Farmer’s own southpaw jab looks comparably effective and should blunt Diaz’s attack in similar fashion.

The big point of concern here is Farmer’s willingness to duke it out inside, as he did against Jono Carroll. Considering the way he boxed Frenois, though, I’m given to believe that this was less an inability to stay out of Carroll’s way and more an acknowledgement that the Irishman couldn’t hurt him. I doubt he extends the same courtesy to Diaz, and instead uses his slick defense and footwork to win this from teh outside. Farmer UD-12

Lewis Watson

This is a real head-scratcher. Farmer’s defensive savvy makes him extremely hard to pin down and get any consistent joy against, with Diaz sure to adopt the come-forward, aggressor role in this clash of styles. Gary Russell Jr set the blueprint to beat Diaz with quick, spiteful flurries and lateral movement — Diaz froze for a lot of that fight unwilling and unable to throw his best work. Diaz will probably be more willing to take risks against the limited power of Farmer and should look to implement the thudding bodywork that he gained minor success from in his only pro loss. Farmer should be able to stay patient and avoid the lure of trading in the pocket, edging a tight, but deserved win on the cards. Farmer UD-12

And the staff winner is...

Tevin Farmer v Jono Carroll Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Tevin Farmer (4-0)!

Demetrius Andrade vs Luke Keeler

Scott Christ

Matchmaking for Andrade has received some criticism in recent outings, and Keeler is a backwards step from Maciej Sulecki, and probably even from Artur Akavov, who once gave Billy Joe Saunders a tougher fight than expected, while Keeler’s career highlight is his previous bout, a win over also-ran Luis Arias. That “he beat an American guy with a decent-seeming record!” stuff might fly to oversell someone in Europe, but not with me.

There’s nothing Keeler does that’s going to give him a legitimate chance to pull the upset here. He can’t really punch and even if he could, he’s a significantly worse boxer than Andrade, meaning he’s going to have a horrible time closing the gap and getting into range. Andrade could easily cruise to a 12-0 shutout here, but I expect Keeler to have so little on offer that “Boo Boo” will take the risk, drop the jazz, and close the show once he’s got Keeler mentally depleted. Andrade TKO-8

Wil Esco

This one is pretty simple for me. A lot of people don’t like the way Demetrius Andrade fights, and to each their own, but he’s extremely effective at what he does. It’s a shame that at age 31 Andrade hasn’t had the big fights he deserves to be in talent-wise, but it’s clear he hasn’t done himself many favors over the years either. In any event, Andrade was once the star amateur standout that was more highly regarded than many of his world champion contemporaries, and it’s not for no reason. Andrade has the skill, but isn’t putting himself in demand for meaningful fights, which makes way for Keeler here.

Not to be too down on Keeler, but I don’t see how he can stand up to Andrade’s skill level and athleticism, and I don’t think he has the physicality to just walk through Andrade’s punches and rough him up. Andrade is significantly better than anyone Keeler’s seen before, and I suspect once Andrade figures out early on that he can win this fight on the outside he puts in on cruise control over the distance. Andrade UD-12

Patrick L. Stumberg

I watched bits of Keeler-Arias with a specific question in mind: “How does Keeler deal with Andrade’s range and awkwardness?” The answer, as far as I can tell, is “He doesn’t.” Keeler doesn’t have much of a punch and has this weird faux-slickster thing going on that looks doomed to failure against anyone within spitting distance of the middleweight elite. There’s just nothing he does that could feasibly take Andrade out of his comfort zone or stop him from happily potshotting at super-long range.

Andrade is far from unstoppable, and his willingness to throw looping shots at the expense of his range will get him in trouble against other top 160-pounders. Luckily for him, Keeler isn’t one of those. Andrade’s length carries him to another comfortable decision victory. Andrade UD-12

Lewis Watson

Akavov, Sulecki, Keeler — not the most awe-inspiring run of defences for “Boo Boo” as a champion in one of the most heralded divisions. Andrade still seems fairly unknown to the US audience and this won’t improve by taking on someone who is effectively at domestic level in the UK and Ireland. This high-risk, low-reward aura surrounding the champion makes matching him a complete nightmare, despite the DAZN money keeping him sweet.

Keeler’s WBO European strap has edged him up the organisation’s rankings allowing this fight to materialise but that doesn’t detract from the massive mismatch that this is. Andrade is slick, easy on the eye – without setting pulses racing – and a competent counter-puncher; Keeler has only 5 stoppages to his name which makes it hard to claim he has anything close to a punchers chance in this one. Andrade TKO-6

And the staff winner is...

Demetrius Andrade v Artur Akavov Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Demetrius Andrade (4-0)!

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