Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz and Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov are cleared to fight.
Both boxers came within the 140-pound rehydration weight limit in place for their IBF junior lightweight title fight, which takes place Saturday evening from Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. Diaz weighed 139.6 pounds, while Rakhimov was well within the mark at 137.6 pounds to vie for the now-vacant title.
Diaz (31-1, 15KOs) was stripped of the belt after hitting the scale at 133.6 pounds for Friday’s official pre-fight weigh-in, more than three pounds over the 130-pound junior lightweight limit. Rakhimov—who weighed 129.8 pounds—is eligible to win the title with a win on Saturday. Any other outcome will result in the title remaining vacant.
There existed a period for several hours following Friday’s weigh-in as to whether the fight would still move forward. According to California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) rules, boxers who weigh more than two (2) pounds over the contracted limit are not permitted a second weight-cut attempt. Ironically, the ruling gives Diaz a significant advantage as he was not required to further drain himself in order to get closer to the 130-pound mark.
It also hit him directly in the pocket, however. In addition to his title reign coming to a close, the California native was fined 20% of his reported $500,000 purse. The $100,000 fine was evenly divided between Rakhimov and the California commission.
Rakhimov gained an extra $50,000 to go with his reported $100,000 purse, while additional terms were discussed in order to allow the fight to move forward. The Tajikistan-born, Russia-based lightweight contender was on board to proceed with the fight, though whatever additional payment was extracted from Diaz’s purse in order to make that happen was not disclosed to BoxingScene.com as this goes to publish.
Diaz (31-1, 15KOs) claimed the IBF belt with a 12-round unanimous decision win over Tevin Farmer last January in Miami, Florida. The voluntary title fight came with a rematch clause, which has since expired thus allowing Diaz—a 2012 U.S. Olympian who fights out of Downey, California—to move forward with a mandatory title defense although no longer entering the fight as the reigning champion.
Rakhimov (15-0, 12KOs) earned the mandatory title fight following a come-from-behind 8th round knockout of unbeaten Azinga Fuzile in their Sept. 2019 title eliminator on the road in East London, South Africa.
A post-fight protest was filed by Fuzile’s camp, alleging that Rakhimov was aided by illegal substances—including smelling salt in between rounds—in producing the knockout victory. The matter was the subject of a four-month investigation conducted by an independent three-person panel before honoring the official result. Rakhimov was then approved to face the winner of Diaz-Farmer, only for the ongoing pandemic to significantly delay such plans.
Rakhimov fights in the United States for the first time in his pro career. The unbeaten contender set up camp in Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood in order to prepare for the title fight.
Diaz served as a healthy -240 betting favorite throughout fight week according to SportsBettingDime.com, though odds have since grown closer. Diaz is now hovering at -190 according to bet365, with Rakhimov inching closer as a +165 underdog to win the fight and the vacant title.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox