Murodjon Akhmadaliev will make his first defense of the WBA and IBF junior featherweight titles Saturday on DAZN, as Matchroom Boxing move into Uzbekistan with a big card from Tashkent, featuring several of the country’s best fighters — and it’s a country really starting to make a mark in the boxing world.
Can the former titlist Iwasa pull an upset on the road, or does Akhmadaliev stay unbeaten? We pick the fight.
Scott Christ (16-6-1)
I think I like Iwasa’s chances at the upset here better than most, and I don’t like them very much. I do think the Japanese veteran is a good fighter, this is a really good matchup, and I still believe he got the short end a bit against TJ Doheny back in 2018. He’s won two straight since, and he had more trouble with both Cesar Juarez and Marlon Tapales than you might like, but he won both fights.
Iwasa’s record doesn’t indicate he’s a HUGE puncher, but he can punch. I just think Akhmadaliev’s the better fighter; Iwasa won’t do as well mixing it up in the phone booth as Danny Roman did at times, as that’s more Roman’s sort of game. Iwasa will be better served if he can find range, work behind a southpaw jab, and set things up while probably having to tie Akhmadaliev up more than he’d normally prefer. But I don’t think he’ll be content to tie him up much, and I see MJ doing enough work inside to win this clearly, though I say it’ll go the distance with the Uzbek winning clearly but not without some competition. Akhmadaliev UD-12
Wil Esco (17-5-1)
I’m not even going to bother pretending like I know a whole ton on Murodjon Akhmadaliev. I’ve seen him fight a couple of times now, most notably beating Daniel Roman last year, and he’s clearly got a lot of promise. He also has only eight professional fights so far, so I don’t want to be so quick to jump into hyperbole about how amazing he is. As for Isawa, I’m not much of a believer in him or his chances here. If Akhmadaliev is indeed the goods I think this is a fight where he makes a more emphatic statement, demonstrating that he’s taken the next step forward. I think he does exactly that and stops Isawa before it’s over. Akhmadaliev TKO-6
How to Watch Akhmadaliev vs Iwasa
Patrick L. Stumberg (16-6-1)
Akhmadaliev is unquestionably one of the most unique and entertaining fighters in the lower weight classes, blending truly elite footwork and distance management with from-the-hip gunslinging. Though Daniel Roman found sporadic success throwing with him and forcing him back with pressure, “MJ” proved able to make that energy-intensive style work for a full championship fight, which bodes ill for the rest of the division. Iwasa included.
Though rangy, sharp, and sneakily powerful, Iwasa will have all sorts of trouble keeping Akhmadaliev out of the pocket, where the Uzbek’s speed and heavy hands reign supreme. He could try to recreate Roman’s tactics, throwing his own punches simultaneously with Akhmadaliev’s to punish the latter’s heavy swings, but that demands a level of durability Iwasa doesn’t appear to possess.
This is a very good challenger against a genuinely great champion. Akhmadaliev neutralizes Iwasa’s length with his impeccable movement and tears him apart on the inside for a finish in the middle rounds. Akhmadaliev TKO-7
Lewis Watson (17-5-1)
I really enjoy watching Akhmadaliev fight. He’s well balanced, springs in and out of range with real fluidity and can pack a punch. He’ll need this boxing IQ against Iwasa who is quick to the punch and will enjoy a size advantage over “MJ” – not that Akhmadaliev isn’t used to this from his amateur days. This fight will signal the first time that Akhmadaliev has fought in his native Uzbekistan since turning pro in 2018 and I can’t imagine that this sense of occasion will be lost on the champ. Akhmadaliev should be able to grind his man down in this battle of southpaws. Akhmadaliev TKO-9