Murodjon Akhmadaliev cannot wait to defend his 122-pound crowns in his home country Saturday night.
The IBF/WBA champ will fight in his native Uzbekistan for the first time since he turned pro three years ago against an optional opponent, Japan’s Ryosuke Iwasa. The 12-round championship bout between Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6 KOs) and Iwasa (27-3, 17 KOs) will headline DAZN’s stream from Humo Arena in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan (10 a.m. ET; 7 a.m. PT).
The 26-year-old Akhmadaliev will make his first defenses of the two titles he won from Daniel Roman 14 months ago in Miami. Akhmadaliev edged Los Angeles’ Roman by split decision in their 12-rounder in January 2020.
“Ryosuke Iwasa is a warrior,” Akhmadaliev said. “He’s been in the ring with the very best. I rate him very highly and believe he is a very dangerous fighter. I have studied him and am ready for him, as always. My team has done the work and I will do the work in the ring. I’m not going to give up anything to anybody.
“He is trying to get what is mine, but that’s not going to happen. Boxing is not always easy, just like life. It’s pretty much always hard. You have tough fights in the ring and in life.”
The 31-year-old Iwasa is a former IBF junior featherweight champ who, like Akhmadaliev, is a southpaw. The William Hill sports book lists Akhmadaliev as about a 6-1 favorite over Iwasa.
“I am only focused on Iwasa, but as a champion my dream is to win every belt,” Akhmadaliev said. “If everything goes well [Saturday] night, I will not avoid anybody. I want all the belts. I’m blessed to be a world champion. Now defending my belts at home is the next goal for me.”
Mexico’s Luis Nery (31-0, 24 KOs), who owns the WBC championship, and Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs), who holds the WBO belt, are the opponents Akhmadaliev would need to defeat if he is to become a fully unified champion in the 122-pound division.
On Saturday night, he’ll headline a card that also will feature two other Uzbekistan-born boxers.
In the 10-round co-feature, junior welterweight Shakhram Giyasov (10-0, 8 KOs) is scheduled to meet Mexico’s Patricio Lopez Moreno (28-4, 20 KOs). Earlier Saturday night, junior middleweight Israil Madrimov (6-0, 5 KOs) and The Republic of Congo’s Emmany Kalombo (14-0, 14 KOs) are set to square off in a 10-rounder.
Giyasov won a silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where Akhmadaliev captured a bronze medal.
“When you fight at home, defending what belongs to you, that’s probably the most important fight,” Akhmadaliev said. “To give a good fight under the bright lights, that’s what I’m looking forward to. It’s a dream for any fighter to perform at home. Israil, Shakhram and I have been together for 15 years. We worked for world amateur rankings and becoming Asian champions, world champions and Olympians.
“We’ve been together through everything. Now being a professional and having the chance to fight in a huge event at home, already being the champion, is huge. … I’m looking forward to showcasing myself, which is important to my countrymen, family and friends. I look forward to bringing the attention of the boxing world to Uzbekistan.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.