LAS VEGAS – Batyr Akhmedov lost a split decision to Alberto Puello in his last fight and knocked out Ismael Barroso almost five years ago.

It is Barroso, though, that has replaced Puello in a fight against Rolando “Rolly” Romero for the vacant WBA super lightweight title Saturday night at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Akhmedov, meanwhile, will encounter Kenneth Sims Jr. in the 12-round opener of a “Showtime Championship Boxing” broadcast that Romero and Barroso will headline.

Puello (21-0, 10 KOs) was supposed to make the first defense of his WBA belt against Romero (14-1, 12 KOs), but he tested positive for clomiphene, a banned substance, last month.

The WBA has relegated Puello to its champion in recess. The Dominican southpaw will be stripped of his 140-pound championship if his B sample submitted to the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association comes back positive.

“Unfortunately, that bothers me, stuff like that happening,” Akhmedov said during a press conference Thursday. “The guy who I believe I beat, you know, they got the title away from me. Now he’s stripped of the title. I’m not participating in the world championship fight. That frustrates me. But, you know, it is what it is. God knows better. And I’m here.

“We took this fight one month after [the] Puello fight. It’s been postponing and postponing and postponing, you know, and now we’re here fighting a top contender. You know, we’re in a great fight, tough fight, and I’m happy to be here. I have all these opportunities in front of me and it’s up to me to [take advantage of] them.”

The bout between Uzbekistan’s Akhmedov (9-2, 8 KOs), who is ranked third by the WBA, and Chicago’s Sims (19-2-1, 7 KOs), the WBA’s 10th-ranked contender, is an elimination match.

Akhmedov cannot help but feel he should be preparing for a title defense. Judge Lisa Giampa scored Akhmedov a 115-113 winner over Puello, but judges Benoit Roussel and Mark Streisand both credited Puello for a 117-111 win August 20 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

The 32-year-old Akhmedov also believes he beat Mario Barrios in their 12-round fight for Barrios’ WBA world super lightweight title in September 2019 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. San Antonio’s Barrios (27-2, 18 KOs) knocked Akhmedov to the canvas once apiece in the fourth and 12th rounds that night and won on all three scorecards (116-111, 115-111, 114-112).

“It’s a bit frustrating,” Akhmedov said. “I feel like I’m a two-time world champion already and, unfortunately, I never got the belt. But it is what it is. The judges don’t appreciate my style. I know the people do appreciate my style. I know the people appreciate what I’m doing in the ring. Because you can go and you can see.

“Everyone knows that I won not just the previous fight, but two fights [against Puello and Barrios]. And I believe that I deserve to be in the main event, but it is what it is. We’re here. We have a great fight. I believe that I have a tougher fight in front of me and, you know, it is what it is. I’ll prove that I deserve to be there.”

In between the Akhmedov-Sims and Romero-Barroso bouts, Showtime will televise a 10-round co-feature in which Cuban junior welterweight contender Rances Barthelemy (29-2-1, 15 KOs, 1 NC) will oppose Omar Juarez (14-1, 5 KOs), of Brownsville, Texas. Showtime’s coverage is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. EDT and 6 p.m. PDT.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.