Report from Miami as Tevin Farmer vs Jojo Diaz duel while Daniel Roman vs Murodjon Akmadaliev proves a good watch and a close fight
Tevin Farmer vs Jojo Diaz
Plenty of words had been exchanged between IBF super-featherweight king Tevin Farmer and challenger Jojo Diaz ahead of their battle of opposites, despite sharing the southpaw stance, at Meridian at Island Gardens in Miami last night. Diaz, a 2012 US Olympian, had a great amateur background and is a tenacious box-fighter who had fallen short at 126lbs in a previous world title try versus Gary Russell Jr. Philadelphia’s Farmer, meanwhile, had a brief unpaid career and lost four of his first 12 pro contests, before embarking on a lengthy winning run, employing a slick style full of movement and trickery.
Both men have fast hands, but Farmer was busier and displayed the better defence in the early stages. His right jab was a sharp, snappy weapon. Downey’s Diaz suffered a bad cut to the left eye in the second, adding to the challenge he faced against an accomplished champion who frequently changed angles. Tevin engaged at close quarters in round three and looked comfortable, although these tactics gave Diaz more openings. He built on this in the fourth, landing quick combinations, switching from head to body.
When Farmer kept it at range, protecting his chin behind the right shoulder, he was able to use his long arms to stay in the ascendance. It was left to Diaz to force the fight if he were to capture the title. He tried doggedly, despite the cut, but Farmer’s head and foot movement meant he often hit air and expended energy in doing so. In the fourth and seventh, particularly, Farmer’s willingness to trade up close cost him. Farmer’s corner encouraged him to press, but to remain defensively responsible as he came out of exchanges.
Diaz had plenty of guile in his own right. The Californian weaved his way inside, hooking to the body and moving rapidly up to the head. He had an excellent round eight, making their 12-rounder his kind of fight; he was appropriately physical with the silkier Farmer. I had it 5-3 Farmer but plenty of rounds were close enough to dispute, and it was all square, for me, by the end of the 10th session.
It seemed anyone’s fight with two rounds left, and Diaz did a great job of staying compact and moving his head as he attacked. Farmer punch-picked well at times but was simply unable to keep the battle at his optimal range.
I tallied 115-113 for Diaz at the finish of an absorbing match, two of the judges agreed, while the third scored 116-112, all for the new title-holder. Farmer later said he hurt his right hand in the opening round, but the classy ex-champ refused to use that as an excuse and was keen to take up the immediate rematch clause.
Daniel Roman vs Murodjon Akmadaliev
It was proven professional commodity against excellent amateur pedigree as unified super-bantamweight champion (IBF and WBA) Daniel Roman defended against Olympic bronze and World silver medallist Murodjon Akhmadaliev, who came in having experienced just seven pro bouts (albeit all wins, six inside schedule) against moderate opposition.
The aggressive Uzbek southpaw was a favourite with the bookmakers but LA’s Roman had unified against an in-form TJ Doheny and won a pair of world title contests in Japan, against natives. He drew the lead early on, countering effectively. Explosive Akhmadaliev chose to bounce in and out, attempting to place his heavy hands. It was an intriguing clash of styles.
The pace increased from the third, Roman remaining comparatively patient as his Uzbek rival planted his feet and winged in big blows. The footwork from both men was impressive. I had it 3-1 to Akhmadaliev after four but Roman appeared to be gaining momentum.
Murodjon moved laterally more as the fight progressed, while Roman came forward and unloaded more combinations, targeting the body. The Uzbek had never been in a long fight against a quality opponent before, but looked comfortable as the scheduled 12-rounder entered its second half. That said, the intelligent pressure and superior workrate of Roman tied things up, at least on my card, by the close of round eight.
Roman continued his charge in the final third, but Akhmadaliev landed the heavier punches. The challenger was physically strong as well as technically sound, but when Roman was able to push him back, he usually got the better of things; this just did not happen very often. It was Akhmadaliev who came on strong in the 10th, however, cutting Roman’s right eye and being first to the punch. Roman needed a good final two rounds in my view and went on to the front foot once more. He took both for me with a supreme effort, making it a draw, 114-114.
The judges also had it close, with three scores of 115-113, one for Roman and two in favour of Akhmadaliev, the new unified champ after just eight fights.