LAS VEGAS – Kenneth Sims Jr. literally fought for free in his first fight after suffering the second defeat of his career.

Seven fights and almost four years to the day later, Sims moved one step closer Saturday night toward a world title shot. The right-handed fighter from Chicago switched stances, countered well while boxing mostly off his back foot and withstood a relentlessly aggressive Batyr Akhmedov’s power to win their 12-round WBA 140-pound elimination match by majority decision at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Sims, who fought through severe swelling around his right eye, and Akhmedov provided plenty of entertainment throughout an all-action, back-and-forth fight Showtime televised as part of the Rolando Romero-Ismael Barroso undercard.

Judges Tim Cheatham (116-112) and Chris Migliore (115-113) both scored their fight for Sims. Judge Steve Weisfeld scored it a draw (114-114).

“This is the fight that I expected,” Sims told Showtime’s Jim Gray in the ring. “This is what I’ve been waiting on for years. Like I said before, I thought he won the title in his last fight, so I thought he should be a world champion. So, this just showed I’m ready for whatever. I’m ready to be world champion.”

According to CompuBox’s unofficial count, Akhmedov landed 22 more punches overall than Sims (331-of-933 to 309-of-832).

CompuBox credited Akhmedov for connecting with more power punches (262-of-657 to 229-of-494). Sims landed more jabs, according to CompuBox (80-of-338 to 69-of-276).

The 640 combined punches Sims and Akhmedov landed was the most for a fight tracked by CompuBox in 2023.

Uzbekistan’s Akhmedov (9-3, 8 KOs) suffered his third close loss over the past 3½ years.

Mario Barrios beat him unanimously in their 12-round fight for Barrios’ WBA world super lightweight title in September 2019 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Akhmedov lost a split decision to Alberto Puello in his last fight, a 12-rounder for the then-vacant WBA super lightweight title August 20 at Seminole Hard Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

“I felt confident that I was winning the fight,” Akhmedov said. “But it’s like every time I don’t stop my opponent, it’s like they win. It seems like it’s a goal against me. If they reach the 12th round, it’s like they already won and they’re already celebrating because the judges give it to them. Look at the punch stats. It’s the third time in a row. I won again.”

The 29-year-old Sims (20-2-1, 7 KOs) has won seven consecutive fights since Samuel Teah upset him by unanimous decision in an eight-rounder that took place in November 2018 in Philadelphia.

In addition to his victory over Akhmedov, Sims upset then-undefeated southpaw Elvis Rodriguez (14-1-1, 12 KOs) during his winning streak. Akhmedov was the best opponent Sims fought since his eight-round, majority-decision win against Rodriguez in May 2021 at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

With their fantastic fight seemingly on the table, Sims and Akhmedov went toe-to-toe throughout a thrilling 12th and final round.

After taking a lot of flush punches toward the end of the 10th round, Akhmedov came forward and landed hard shots throughout the 11th round. His left hand hammered Sims with just over 20 seconds to go in it, but Sims came back with right hands and left hooks of his own to keep Akhmedov from gaining too much momentum.

Akhmedov drilled Sims with a left hand when there were just over 15 seconds to go in the 10th round.

Sims cracked Akhmedov with a counter right hook 1:20 into the 10th round. About 20 seconds later, Sims attacked Akhmedov with an array of punches that put Akhmedov on his back foot for a change.

Sims and Akhmedov continued to fight at a hectic pace throughout the ninth round. A hard left by Akhmedov awakened Sims, who blasted his left-handed opponent with various power punches over the final 15 seconds of the ninth round.

Akhmedov and Sims traded hard punches at a fast pace in the final minute of the eighth round. Akhmedov landed the harder shots with more frequency during that entertaining stretch.

Sims’ right hand moved Akhmedov backward with just over 1:20 to go in the eighth round.

A right-left combination by Sims made Akhmedov reset his feet with just over 40 seconds to go in the seventh round. Sims also landed a right hand and a left hook as the seventh round came to an end.

Akhmedov backed Sims into the ropes 35 seconds into the seventh round and they traded hard shots.

Backed into his own corner, Sims cracked Akhmedov with a right hook just before the sixth round ended. Sims caught Akhmedov with a right hook when there were 30 seconds remaining in the sixth round.

Dock called time a second after the halfway point of the sixth round to warn Sims for a low blow.

Akhmedov’s straight left drilled Sims with about 30 seconds to go in the fifth round.

A straight left by Akhmedov landed with about 1:15 on the clock in the fifth round. Sims caught him with a right hook about 25 seconds later.

Akhmedov caught Sims with a straight left that backed him into a neutral corner with about 20 seconds to go in the fourth round. Sims landed two right hands after taking that shot and moved out of that corner.

After troubling Akhmedov from a southpaw stance for much of the first three rounds, Sims switched back to orthodox during the first half of the fourth round.

Akhmedov responded to a straight left by Sims with a right hook toward the end of the third round. Sims’ left hand moved Akhmedov backward just after the halfway point of the third round.

Sims caught Akhmedov with a left hook in an exchange toward the end of the second round.

Sims’ right hook knocked Akhmedov off balance with just under 1:10 on the clock in the second round. Akhmedov’s straight left landed just before the midway mark of the second round.

Sims switched to a southpaw stance in the middle minute of the first round. He landed a right hook after Akhmedov connected with a left uppercut late in the first round

Sims landed a straight right 50 seconds into the opening round.

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