Joseph Diaz now has clear direction on his next fight.
A purse bid hearing previously delayed in order for the IBF junior lightweight titlist to buy more time on his next ring appearance has since been canceled altogether, as Diaz has reached terms with mandatory challenger Shavkatadzhon Rakhimov. In a minor plot twist, the extended time has resulted in a head-on collision between the two, satisfying a previously ordered fight by the sanctioning body.
Diaz was previously also in talks for a rematch with Tevin Farmer (30-5-1, 6KOs), from whom he won the title this past January in Miami, Florida. That fight is no longer on the table, as IBF representatives confirmed to BoxingScene.com that a deal had been reached for a mandatory title defense versus Russia’s Rakhimov (15-0, 12KOs).
According to a breaking news report by The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger, a working date of February 20 is in place for the fight, to be staged in the United States and promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Such terms are contingent upon securing a fight date and for DAZN to accept it as a main event—absent the fight being paired up with a more significant headliner.
The fight was previously scheduled for a November 17 purse bid hearing, though delayed by a full week as previously reported by BoxingScene.com. The rescheduled November 24 session was canceled well in advance of the scheduled 12:00 p.m. ET start time, as the IBF was satisfied with communication from both sides indicating that a deal was in place for the fight to move forward.
Diaz (31-1, 15KOs) will attempt his first title defense, and will be coming off of more than a year-long layoff should the February 20 date hold. Still, the 2012 U.S. Olympian and reigning titlist from South El Monte, California will be in a better place than Rakhimov, who will travel abroad for his second straight fight while entering the biggest fight of his career following a 17-month inactive stretch by opening bell.
Rakhimov became the mandatory challenger following a bailout, come-from-behind 8th round knockout of Azinga Fuzile in their title eliminator between unbeaten junior lightweight contenders last September. The bout took place on the road in Fuzile’s South Africa home region, with Rakhimov miserably falling behind after seven rounds before coming out full strength to stop the local favorite in the 8th round.
The stoppage was acceptable at face value, though the circumstances leading to that point became the subject of a four-month investigation by the IBF. Fuzile’s side alleged—with documentation and collected samples—that Rakhimov’s side used smelling salts and other banned chemicals in order to revive their fighter in between rounds. The matter was ultimately dismissed and Rakhimov retaining his mandatory ranking.
Fuzile was offered a consolation prize in being offered a second title eliminator versus Farmer, with such a fight offered just after Diaz’s title winning effort.
Farmer instead enforced a rematch clause, with hopes of their sequel having taken place earlier this spring. Such a fight was never assigned a firm fight date, with the initial wave of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic ruining such plans altogether.
As the sport as a whole once again resumed, Farmer’s side sought to have its rematch clause honored despite the IBF ruling. The matter became a sensitive topic, as Diaz—who willingly entered talks with Rakhimov to honor his mandatory title obligation—ran the risk of being stripped of his title had he instead moved forward with a second fight versus Farmer without the sanctioning body’s permission.
The IBF generally does not recognize rematch clauses in contract in regards to their overriding an existing ordered fight.
Upon the fight being ordered earlier this summer, Rakhimov’s team contacted the IBF to request an immediate purse bid hearing in lieu of continuing to participate in the 30-day negotiation period. Such is the right of any participant in an IBF-ordered fight, pursuant to IBF Rule 10A covering mandatory title fights and forthcoming purse bids.
A deadline of January 14, 2021 was assigned to Diaz-Rakhimov, providing a minor loophole for Diaz and Farmer to revisit plans for a sequel. Such a fight would have needed to come before the IBF-imposed deadline, absent Rakhimov agreeing to step aside with the assurance that he would be guaranteed the winner.
It became a moot point, as—despite Diaz and Farmer agreeing in principle to terms for a rematch, such a fight was never granted TV date. The second-time pairing never seemed to be a priority for DAZN, much less if it came without a title at stake.
Diaz—through Golden Boy and adviser MTK Global—instead opted to work out terms with Rakhimov, with a deal coming on the heels of his celebrating his birthday and the birth of his first child all in the span of just more than a week.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox