Diaz, Akhmadaliev win titles in night of upsets

Joseph Diaz Jr. def. Tevin Farmer to win the IBF junior lightweight title
— Fight recap coming up…

Akhmadaliev claims unified junior featherweight title

In a spirited action fight, Murodjon Akhmadaliev won a split decision over Daniel Roman to claim Roman’s unified junior featherweight world title.

Akhmadaliev won 115-113 on two scorecards, and Roman won 115-113 on the third.

Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6 KOs), who was Roman’s mandatory challenger, matched former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks’ record of becoming a men’s unified titleholder in just his eighth pro fight. Akhmadaliev, who won a bronze medal for Uzbekistan in the 2016 Olympics, also became the first unified titlist from that country.

“I cannot describe what I am feeling,” Akhmadaliev said through an interpreter. “I’ve been through so much in my life. Now I am the first in the history of Uzbekistan to be the unified champion in eight fights. It’s something amazing.

“Danny Roman was the most proven 122-pounder in the world. I knew exactly who I was fighting and I was prepared for the best fighter in my division. It was a hell of a fight. He was very sharp.”

Roman (27-3-1, 10 KOs), 29, of Los Angeles, was making the fifth defense of his 122-pound title and fighting for the first time since winning an action-packed battle with TJ Doheny, whom he defeated by majority decision to unify two titles, last April. Roman was coming off the longest layoff of his career because of a shoulder injury.

The fight with Akhmadaliev was originally scheduled for Sept. 13 in New York, but Roman’s injury forced him to postpone the bout. Akhmadaliev stayed busy that night with a fourth-round knockout of Wilner Soto.

There were questions about whether Roman would go through with the fight, given how dangerous a challenge Akhmadaliev presented. Roman, who had only a six-week training camp because of the injury, could have vacated one of the belts and carried on with his other one, but Roman was determined to prove he was the better man and went through with the fight — even though there were members of his own team, including trainer Eddie Gonzalez, who thought he would have been better off going in another direction.

“I’m a fighter,” Roman said. “I will fight anybody they put in front of me. He was the mandatory. You have to learn how to accept the victory and learn how to accept the defeat as well. I would like a rematch. Why not?”

Akhmadaliev, a southpaw, was aggressive from the outset, marching forward and firing shots, but Roman stood his ground and landed some solid body punches.

Akhmadaliev was the bigger puncher, and landed a hard right hand that seemed to buzz Roman in the fifth round. There was good give-and-take throughout the fight, but Akhmadaliev, 25, seemed to have the better of the action through the first half of the fight. But then Roman, who was cut on his right eyelid, came on in the second half of the fight and had a strong eighth round in which he landed multiple left uppercuts.

There was good action in the 10th round, but Akhmadaliev, who was marked up under his left eye and into a 10th round for the first time in his career, was landing the fiercer power shots.

Roman went after Akhmadaliev in the 12th round after Gonzalez told him in the corner that he was unsure how the fight was going. He threw uppercuts and chased Akhmadaliev around the ring trying to land his best shot, but came up just short on the scorecards.

“It was a close fight. He’s a hell of a fighter, a strong fighter,” Roman said. “He’s a complicated fighter. He was the better man tonight.”

Espino stops Baccus in third round

Super middleweight prospect Alexis Espino (5-0, 4 KOs) had an easy time disposing of Vincent Baccus (4-2-1, 3 KOs), 35, of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, by knockout in the third round of their scheduled six-rounder.

Espino, 20, of Las Vegas, who is trained by top cornerman Robert Garcia, rocked Baccus with a left hook late in the second round and continued to pound him in the third.

Midway through the third round, he dropped Baccus with a clean left hook. Baccus made it to his feet, but as the fight resumed Espino immediately landed a left-right combination and referee Sam Burgos stepped in to stop it at 1 minute, 49 seconds as Espino flexed in Baccus’ face.

Angulo wins split decision over Sims

In an upset, super middleweight Roamer Alexis Angulo (26-1 22 KOs) edged touted up-and-comer Anthony Sims Jr. (20-1 18 KOs), 24, of Plainfield, Illinois, in a dreadful fight that featured virtually no action or clean punching.

Two judges scored it 96-93 for the more aggressive Angulo and one judge had it 95-94 for Sims, who spent most of the fight moving around the ring and not engaging with Angulo, 35, a Colombia native fighting out of Miami, whose only loss came in June 2018 in a one-sided unanimous decision challenging then-super middleweight world titlist Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez.

Referee Christopher Young docked one point from Angulo in the fifth round for holding. Neither fighter did much of anything, leaving the only drama to take place in Sims’ corner.

After the sixth round Sims’ trainer, James Doolin, told Sims he was down by two points.

“You gotta knock him out,” Doolin told Sims before sending him out for the seventh round.

After the eighth round Doolin told him, “You gotta put him down, baby! That’s all there is to it!”

But Sims continued to dance around and show extreme caution while Angulo plodded forward and could barely land anything as the crowd was virtually silent.

Williams destroys Sanchez

Houston middleweight prospect Austin Williams (5-0, 4 KOs) dominated Donald Sanchez (5-3, 3 KOs), 35, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, en route to a fourth-round knockout victory.

Williams, a 23-year-old southpaw, scored three knockdowns in a fight he dominated from start to finish. He landed numerous clean punches and combinations on a game Sanchez. He nearly dropped Sanchez with a straight left hand to the head in the first round. In the second round he floored him with an overhand left that sent him to his rear end. And in the fourth round Williams sent Sanchez to the mat twice more — first with a straight left hand, and then with a combination to the head and body — after which referee Telis Assimenios waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 51 seconds.

Serrano knocks out Da Silva

Amanda Serrano (38-1-1, 28 KOs), who has won world titles in a women’s record seven weight classes, knocked out Simone Aparecida Da Silva (17-15, 6 KOs), 36, of Brazil, in the third round of a lightweight bout.

Serrano, 31, of Brooklyn, New York, had been training for an MMA fight on Jan. 25 in her native Puerto Rico, but the card was canceled and promoter Lou DiBella was able to get her on this card on six days’ notice. The fight was a tune-up for a probable spring showdown with undisputed women’s lightweight world champion Katie Taylor.

Serrano landed a flurry of punches in the final moments of the second round for a knockdown. In the third round, Serrano unloaded numerous unanswered punches until referee Sam Burgos stopped it at 53 seconds.

Still to come: