MJ is the Genuine Article
The goal of any boxer is to become either a unified or undisputed world champion within a division. It’s not only a key component to being viewed as “the man” in a certain weight class, but it also represents a path to bigger purses for a fighter fortunate enough to achieve this distinction.
Anthony Joshua (Heavyweight), Artur Beterbiev (Light Heavyweight), Jeison Rosario (Junior Middleweight), Errol Spence (Welterweight) Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor (Junior Welterweight), as well as Naoya Inoue (Bantamweight) presently hold the distinction of holding more than one world title in a weight division.
But alas, there is one more fighter who also holds this claim, but is far less known: Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6 KOs), the current WBA “Super”/IBF world champion at 122-pounds.
The 25-year-old from Uzbekistan achieved this feat when he defeated Daniel Roman (27-3-1, 10 KOs) to capture the unified world Junior Featherweight belts on January 30. What made his accomplishment so special was he was able to do this in only his eighth professional fight!
FOR THE UNINFORMED
Known as “MJ”, he is far from a mainstream fighter. You will not hear his name mentioned among casual fans. Truth be told, you have to be a true boxing geek to know who he is. Still, that does not mean he should be slept on and dismissed. Those who have seen him fight know he is the genuine article. And because of his talent coupled with his top-notch amateur pedigree, which includes a Bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, he’s been pushed aggressively early in his career.
In his victory over Roman, Akhmadaliev showed himself to be someone who brings a bit of everything to the table. The southpaw can fight in all areas of the ring. He’s comfortable engaging on the outside, mid-range, or trading in close. That, combined with his punching power and confidence he displays in the ring (he fights with a noticeable swag), makes him a fighter worthy of keeping an eye on.
So what has kept him from getting more shine and attention, even among boxing’s little giants? Like all fighters, his career had to be put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the verge garnering some genuine attention, things were put on ice. That was a real bummer as folks were on the precipice of knowing who he is as a fighter.
Thankfully the sport has now returned and events are happening regularly; that’s good news for Akhmadaliev. And because he also is promoted by Eddie Hearn/Matchroom Boxing, hopefully, that will result in much-needed exposure.
THE FUTURE FOR “MJ”
A look into the landscape at 122-pounds reveals a solid division, but not a great division. And because of political red-tape, it’s unlikely that you will see the Uzbeki dynamo fight the likes of WBC world 122-pound champion Rey Vargas (34-0, 22 KOs) or WBO world champ, Angelo Leo (20-0, 9 KOs) anytime soon.
However, that doesn’t mean that damage cannot be done. Look for Hearn to start making a serious investment in Akhmadaliev. While it’s anticipated that his next bout will be against WBA “Interim” world 122-pound champion and mandatory challenger Ryosuke Iwasa (27-3, 17 KOs) either later this year or early in 2021, look for it to be a showcase bout on DAZN.
From there, it would be no surprise to see a rematch against Roman. Their bout was one of the better bouts so far this year. Fans who witnessed it would have no problem seeing these two men go at it once again.
Boxing geeks know who “MJ” is. As the sport hits the last stages of 2020 and heads into 2021, it’s time for him to make his ascent as a potential mainstream attraction.
By: Michael Wilson Jr.