Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov has been cleared to maintain his mandatory ranking and proceed with a due title shot.
So much time has passed since reaching that point, however, that the unbeaten contender will have to set his sights on a new target.
A four-month investigation into Rakhimov’s 8th round knockout of Azinga Fuzile failed to provide any evidence of wrongdoing, as officially ruled by the International Boxing Federation (IBF). A number of issues were raised stemming from their 130-pound title eliminator last September in East London, South Africa, including what Fuzile’s team argued was illegal use of a smelling salt by Rakhimov’s corner in between rounds.
In the end came status quo.
“On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, an IBF Appeal Panel consisting of Earl Brown, Allen Huggins, and Sparkle Lee convened in Newark, NJ to hear the appeal of the outcome of the Azinga Fuzile vs. Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov IBF Jr. Lightweight Eliminator for #1 on September 29, 2019 in East London, South Africa,” Daryl Peoples, president of the IBF noted in a letter to the respective teams for Rakhimov and Fuzile, a copy of which BoxingScene.com has obtained. “Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov was declared the winner by TKO in round 8.
“The three-member panel heard the arguments from representatives on behalf of Rakhimov and Fuzile. After consultation with the Championships Committee in accordance with Rule 12.F., the IBF…will recognize Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov as the winner of the Elimination bout against Azinga Fuzile by TKO in the 8th round.”
Rakhimov was trailing on the scorecards and getting badly outclassed by the local favorite, Fuzile (14-1, 8 KOs) in their title eliminator before rallying to score two knockdowns and eventually a stoppage in round eight. Shortly after the bout—and as previously reported by BoxingScene.com—Fuzile’s team took immediate measures to protest the contest, on the basis of video evidence which showed Rakhimov’s assistant trainer administering what appears to be smelling salts or a similar product underneath Rakhimov’s nostrils.
A sweep of the visiting boxer’s locker room after the fight discovered bottles of what event handlers have claimed to be Ringer Acetate Solution (Fresenius), Cytoflavin and Phosphocreatine, the latter two which are on the banned substance list in accordance with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code.
Rakhimov (15-0, 12 KOs) and his team—including promoter German Titov—countered those claims with concerns of their own, alleging the lack of on-site inspectors in the corners as well the lack of post-fight drug testing.
The official protest sat with and was reviewed by the IBF for more than three months before finally reaching a resolution on the matter. While the outcome has not changed, whom Rakhimov next faces is no longer the same as when the fight took place. The winner was due to face Tevin Farmer, who has since conceded his 130-pound title to Joseph ‘Jo Jo’ Diaz via 12-round decision this past January in Miami.
Both sides suggested an immediate rematch will take place, pending the full healing process for a horrific cut suffered by Diaz (31-1, 15 KOs) in the 2nd round of their DAZN-streamed title fight.
The IBF doesn’t quite share that viewpoint.
“Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov will be the #1 and Mandatory challenger for the IBF Jr. Lightweight title,” confirmed Peoples. “Joseph Diaz won the IBF Jr. Lightweight title on January 30, 2020 and is required to make a Mandatory defense of the title against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov on or before July 30, 2020.”
As for Fuzile, a consolation prize has been offered in the form of a chance to ultimately fight for the title in 2021.
“Azinga Fuzile will be ordered to participate in an Elimination bout against the leading available contender for the Mandatory position in the IBF Jr. Lightweight division,” ruled Peoples. “The winner of the Joseph Diaz vs. Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov Mandatory title defense will be required to mandatorily defend the IBF Jr. Lightweight title against the leading available contender by April 30, 2021.”