Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov will remain first in line for a second title shot.
The unbeaten junior lightweight contender was forced to settle for a 12-round draw in Saturday’s title fight versus Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz, who blew weight and was stripped of his IBF 130-pound belt prior to their bout. In successfully making weight for the fight, Rakhimov remains eligible to once again compete for the vacant belt as he has been ordered to next face Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa.
The fight was formally ordered by the IBF on Monday, with the two sides granted 30 days to come to terms before being subject to a purse bid hearing.
The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger was the first to reveal the news, via social media.
Rakhimov (15-0-1, 12KOs) waited more than a year for his mandatory shot versus Diaz (31-1-1, 15KOs), one which indirectly came at the expense of Ogawa (25-1-1, 18KOs).
The number-one ranking enjoyed by Rakhimov, a Tajikistani boxer based out of Russia who came through a come-from-behind 8th round knockout of unbeaten Azinga Fuzile in their Sept. 2019 title eliminator. Fuzile was originally scheduled to face Ogawa, whose promoter Teiken Promotions won a purse bid hearing in efforts to stage the bout in May 2019 in Japan. Those plans fell through when Fuzile was unable to secure a travel visa, citing a lack of assistance as grounds to have the bout postponed for another four months.
Ogawa declined to wait that long, instead returning to the ring that July. Rakhimov was the next highest rated contender, accepting the fight and making the road trip to East London, South Africa where he scored the biggest win of his career in his first fight outside of Russia.
His second road trip wasn’t nearly as kind. Rakhimov almost missed out on the title fight after initially testing positive for COVID-19, though being cleared to fight after subsequently producing multiple negative tests.
Rakhimov came in just under the 130-pound divisional limit for the Feb. 13 DAZN headliner, only for Diaz to check in at a beefy 133.6 pounds. The title was declared vacant, with Rakhimov financially compensated to proceed with the fight only to for the night to end with the belt still up for grabs.
Ogawa briefly held this very title, following a highly questionable 12-round split decision win over Tevin Farmer in Dec. 2017. The disputed outcome became a moot point, when Ogawa was stripped of the belt after testing positive for Androstanediol, receiving a one-year suspension for his infraction.
Four fights have since followed, including a 10-round decision win over countryman Kazuhiro Nishitani in his most recent appearance last October in his Tokyo hometown.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox