February 8 2023

‘MJ’ meets Tapales while Raymond Ford and Thomas Mattice both step up on April 8

Murodjon Akhmadaliev will defend his WBA and IBF World Super-Bantamweight titles against Marlon Tapales at the Boeing Center at Tech Port in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday April 8, as the co-main event to Jesse Rodriguez’s quest to become a two-weight World champion when he faces Cristian Gonzalez for the vacant WBO Flyweight crown, exclusively live worldwide on DAZN.


Rodriguez (17-0 11 KOs) drops down to 112lbs in his quest to land World title honors at a second weight after an incredible year in 2022. ‘Bam’ become boxing’s youngest World champion when he stepped in late to dominate former World ruler Carlos Cuadras to land the vacant WBC Super-Flyweight strap in Phoenix in February and then came home to San Antonio for his first defense where he put on a stunning display at the venue that he goes for two-weight glory in, when he stopped Thai star Srisaket Sor Rungvisai inside eight rounds in June.

Those wins saw Rodriguez named as the Fighter of the Year in ESPN’s midyear awards, and in September, he successfully defended the green and gold belt once again, this time in Las Vegas as the co-main event on the Canelo-GGG trilogy night against Israel Gonzalez.

It’s same surname, different challenge for Rodriguez as Mexican Gonzalez (15-1 5 KOs) looks to upset the odds in his first World title fight. The 23 year old is the #2 ranked fighter in the division, one spot behind top dog Rodriguez, boxes in the States for the first time in his five year career having exclusively boxed on home turf to this point.

“I’m more than excited to be returning home for another World title fight,” said Rodriguez. “My last fight here was a very special night and I can promise this one will be even better.

“I’m ready to make history in San Antonio when I become a two-division champion. I’m here to start 2023 with a bang and nothing less. Thank you to Matchroom and Teiken for yet another opportunity to reach greatness.”

“We are working hard for this next great challenge of fighting for the WBO World title,” said Gonzalez. “I want to thank Matchroom, All Star Boxing Inc and Teiken for the opportunity. Our clash of styles will turn this fight into a Mexican war that won’t make it to the scorecards.”

Akhmadaliev (11-0 8 KOs) makes the fourth defense of the WBA and IBF belts he landed against Daniel Roman in Miami in January 2020, and he’s seen off Ryosuke Iwasa (TKO 5, April 2021), Jose Velazquez (UD, November 2021) and Ronny Rios (TKO 12, June 2022) in his three defenses to date, with his win over Rios happening at the same venue he returns to in April. ‘MJ’ is hunting an undisputed battle with Stephen Fulton, but Filipino Tapales (36-3 19 KOs) will be looking to throw a spanner in the works, and the former World Bantamweight ruler enters his 40th pro fight on the back of three straight second round KO wins.

“I’m happy to be back in the ring,” said Akhmadaliev. “It’s been a while, but finally we’re here for an exciting match against a great fighter in Tapales. He’s a former champion, we have similar styles, so I am preparing for tough action-packed fight on April 8. Thanks to Matchroom, World of Boxing, my team and all the support from boxing fans.”

I’m ready to make history in San Antonio when I become a two-division champion

- Jesse Rodriguez

“I am very excited again for this opportunity to fight for not one but two World titles,” said Tapales. “This is my dream to become World Champion again. I would like to thank my Team at Sanman Boxing, Knucklehead Boxing, Shapiro Sports, Viva Promotions and TGB Promotions for getting me this opportunity. I will bring pride and glory to the Philippines when I win both the IBF and WBA belts.”

Raymond Ford’s rise continues at pace, and the WBA #3 rated Featherweight will defend his WBA Continental Americas title against former World champion Jessie Magdaleno. Like Akhmadaliev, Ford (13-0-1 7 KOs) returns to the San Antonio arena that he defended the title in June and does so on the back of a KO worthy of his nickname in Cleveland in November, where a ‘Savage’ right hand ended the challenge of African dangerman Sakaria Lukas.

Ford will be banging on the door for World title action with a win, and that’s a level that’s familiar to Magdaleno (29-1 18 KOs) with the Las Vegas man having ripped the WBO Bantamweight title from Nonito Donaire in November 2016. The 31 year old defended it successfully against Adeilson Dos Santos before losing out to Isaac Dogboe in April 2018 – but he’s been undefeated since

“People are talking about this being a step up for me but I’m the step up for Magdaleno,” said Ford. “He’s never fought anyone with a skill set like mine and never been hit by a sharpshooter like me.

“I’m ready for anyone at 126 and once I get past Magdaleno then it’s time for me to get my shot at a World title.”

“Everyone loves a comeback story, and everyone loves the underdog as well,” said Magdaleno. “I kind of feel like I’ve been the underdog before, and I’ve come out on top. Here we are again. This is my time to shine. A win in this fight puts me right back to where I need to be. I can’t let Ray Ford take that from me. Hopefully that inspires people to not give up on their dreams.”

Mattice (20-3-1 15 KOs) recorded the biggest win of his career to date in his hometown of Cleveland in November, picking up the WBA Continental Americas Super-Featherweight title on points against Christian Tapia. That performance landed him a contract with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom, and the first fight under that deal sees the ‘Gunna Man’ defend that belt against Ramiro Cesena. Undefeated Mexican Cesena (16-0-1) brings a fearsome knockout ratio to the table in his first fight on American soil, and the 23 year old dubbed ‘Demon’ has devilish plans to derail Mattice’s Matchroom debut.

“April 8 we are back,” said Mattice. “Another undefeated fighter and another big step for my career. This is my first fight since signing with Matchroom and I plan on putting on another spectacular performance to show the world why they signed me.

“At this stage of my career it’s only big fights from here on out. I want the top guys at 130 and on April 8, I plan on making a statement to show I’m here and I’m coming for those belts.”

“I am very excited to make my United States debut live on DAZN on April 8 against a very strong opponent in Mattice,” said Cesena. “I am going to be well prepared to bring a war to my Mexican people in San Antonio come fight night. I want to thank my promoters Shane Shapiro and Karim Akkar for giving me this opportunity to showcase my talent in the US.”

“What a night we have in store in San Antonio,” said Hearn. “Jesse is on the fast track to becoming a superstar in the sport and performing regularly on his home patch is a key element of turning this young talent into a household name in Texas and beyond.

“MJ always brings entertainment and with an undisputed fight in his sights, it’s vital he shines against Tapales. Ray is really building a lot of momentum and with Leigh Wood defending the WBA title next weekend that ‘Savage’ has his eyes on, Jessie Magdelano is the perfect test of Ray’s World title credentials. Thomas is a great addition to the Matchroom team and a real dark horse in the 130lbs division, but he needs to be at his best to see of the dangerous Cesena if he’s to send a message to the champions.

“There’s much more to be added and I can’t wait to be back in San Antonio for this night, where I believe ‘Bam’ will become a two-weight World champion and take the first step on another stellar year.”