Stephen Fulton Jr and Murodjon Akhmadaliev have clearly separated themselves from the pack at 122 lbs, not just because combined they hold all four world titles, but because they have faced and beaten the top competition.
They are a clear 1-2 at 122, no matter which way you have them ordered. And there’s no other particularly interesting fight for either of them among those currently fighting at the weight, and bantamweight king Naoya Inoue seems more interested in going undisputed at 118 than moving up next.
So WBC/WBO titleholder Fulton (21-0, 8 KO) and WBA/IBF titleholder Akhmadaliev (11-0, 8 KO) really should meet next. That really is what should happen. They’re lined up to do it in terms of activity — Fulton dominated Danny Roman on June 4, and Akhmadaliev stopped Ronny Rios last night.
For his part, the 27-year-old Fulton says he wants the fight — and that he believes it’s “easy work.”
Man let’s make the fight happen— 100 Billion (@coolboysteph) June 26, 2022
Easy work— 100 Billion (@coolboysteph) June 26, 2022
On the Akhmadaliev side, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn says he’s ready to make the deal:
100% - no obstacles let’s make it happen https://t.co/CA4X2iTMcc— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) June 26, 2022
So what’s preventing this, potentially?
Well, you know, the usual with boxing. Fulton is a Premier Boxing Champions fighter. Akhmadaliev is with Matchroom. My personal gut feeling is that boxing’s major promoters — PBC (not a promoter, but you know winkyface winkyface), Top Rank, Matchroom, and sure let’s add Golden Boy — all seem as likely to hunker down for some renewed “Cold Wars” as they are to work together.
But if that doesn’t happen immediately, this might be a deal that can get done, albeit more likely than not with Fulton as the A-side, the fight happening on Showtime, and Matchroom uninvolved. I suppose Matchroom could offer to overpay and host the fight on DAZN, but that PBC seem less likely to give ground in this scenario.
It would mean Hearn having to basically cut Akhmadaliev loose, at least for one fight, and maybe on a two-fight deal. The good news is he’s recently shown a willingness to do such a thing, not interfering with Devin Haney making a three-fight deal with Top Rank so he could get an undisputed clash with George Kambosos Jr.
Akhmadaliev is not a major draw for Matchroom or DAZN. With due respect to his substantial skills and the fact that he is enjoyable to watch, he’s not someone those companies are likely to start building major events around.
On paper, this should be easy enough to do, but it will require Hearn to step aside for at least the time being. And it will also require Akhmadaliev to want to do that himself; he didn’t make any grand statements about fighting Fulton next when asked last night, saying he’d leave it up to Hearn and his team. But if Hearn isn’t really involved with a Fulton fight, will Akhmadaliev want to do it? You’d think so, but nothing is guaranteed with boxing before you know for sure.
Hopefully, we get it. It’s a great fight on paper, a matchup of two skilled, smart fighters, two of the best jabs in the sport — used as their own weapon, not just for show or to find range — and very different styles that could blend for a really entertaining, high-level chess match sort of fight.
If it does happen, who do you think wins?