Akhmadaliev defeats Roman to claim unified junior featherweight title

In an exciting affair, 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. FightNights.com scored it 115-113 for Akhmadaliev to remain undefeated.

Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6 KO's) accomplished multiple feats on Thursday. Not only did he tie former heavyweight titlist Leon Spinks' record of becoming a unified titleholder in just his eighth pro bout, but he also became the first unified champion from Uzbekistan, who he represented in the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he captured a bronze medal.

"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 KO's), 29, of Los Angeles, who was making the fifth defense of his 122-pound title, was coming off a nine-month layoff, the longest of his career, following a shoulder injury. Both fighters were initially slated to square off on Sept. 13 in New York, but the injury caused the bout to be postponed.

While Roman was on the shelf, Akhmadaliev took advantage by staying active, scoring a fourth-round knockout of Columbian journeyman Wilner Soto.

In the lead-up to the fight, there were questions surrounding Roman and whether he would be ready to face Akhmadaliev. He was still battling complications from the shoulder injury, which forced his training camp to be sliced down to six weeks. But Roman refused to pull out of the fight.

"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, southpaw, set the pace from the outset, coming forward and firing punches, but Roman greeted his adversary with some solid body work.

But Akhmadaliev established himself as the bigger puncher and that was evident in the fifth round when a crisp right hand appeared to bother Roman, but Akhmadaliev seemed to tire in the second half, which allowed Roman to gain a second wind.

Roman had an excellent eighth round and found success on the inside with multiple left uppercuts.

The two exchanged solid blows in the 10th round, but it was Akhmadaliev who was landing the more effective punches.

In the end, Roman put up a valiant effort, but it was too little, too late.

"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."

According to Compubox, Akhmadaliev landed 153 of 498 punches (31 percent), and Roman connected on 150 of 728 punches (21 percent).

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