Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev, the man who knocked Conlan down in the 2015 World Championships final, will be the co-main event of the final HBO boxing card this month.
The Asian gold and silver, World silver, and Olympic bronze medallist will face Californian Isaac Zarate [16(2)-3(0)-3] at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on Saturday November 24th.
The chief support bout to Dmitry Bivol’s WBA light heavyweight title defence versus Jean Pascal, Akhmadaliev [4(3)-0] will defend his WBA Inter-Continental super bantamweight rankings title and #3 position with the organisation in what will be his U.S. TV debut.
The 24-year-old has relocated to America for his pro career and, following three wins including a 59-53 x3 points triumph over Conlan pro foe Luis Molina, won his minor WBA belt in August with a first-round stoppage of Ramon Contreras.
Against Zarate he makes a decent-sized step up, with the 28-year-old coming into the bout off the back of an upset win over Horatio Garcia – who gave Carl Frampton a tough fight last year.
Living in Brooklyn but training in LA under Joel and Antonio Diaz, Akhmadaliev said that “it’s been my dream to fight on HBO where Roy Jones, Manny Pacquiao, and many other great fighters have fought. I can’t believe that I’ll have this opportunity.”
“I’m grateful to my promoter World of Boxing, to Dmitry Bivol for this chance, and of course HBO. Don’t miss my fight. I’ll bring the New Drama Show on HBO on November 24th.”
While currently operating at a weight below featherweight Conlan, the Irishman is an obvious future target for the Central Asian – as evidenced by his matchmaking and the mention of a ‘controversial’ World Championships defeat to the Belfast boxer in his team’s press release.
Top Rank’s Conlan [9(6)-0] is currently preparing for his own first title fight and will box for a to-be-announced belt on the Josh Warrington v Carl Frampton undercard at the Manchester Arena on Saturday December 22nd where he will face a to-be-announced British opponent.
Akhmadaliev is just one of a class of amateurs coming through with Conlan. Vladimir Nikitin, the Russian benefactor of ‘that’ controversial Olympic decision against Conlan, is being built towards a pro rematch with the Falls fighter next year. Then there is another Top Rank top talent, Shakur Stevenson, who is being positioned as more of a long-term future opponent.
Before all the Nikitin drama, Akhmadaliev was seen as a big gold medal rival for Conlan at the 2016 Rio Olympics following their dramatic Worlds final in Doha the year before. In the end, the Uzbek was drawn on the other side of the competition and, after blasting his way to the semis, was eliminated by Cuban maestro Robeisy Ramirez.