On February 13th we'll see hard hitting Tajik Super Featherweight Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12) get his first world title bout, as he challenges IBF world champion Joseph "Jo Jo" Diaz in Indio California. For many this will be the first time they've had the chance to see the Tajik fighter, and with that in mind we though we'd take the opportunity to help get fans up to date with the Tajik, and learn get an idea of what to expect when he shares the ring with Diaz.
Born in August 1994 in Bokhtar, which is also known as Qurghonteppa in the south of Tajikistan, Rakhimov has been on the boxing scene for years. In fact he's been on the radar of those who following amateur boxing since he was a teenager.
As is typical with amateur records it's hard to know exactly when Rakhimov first fought as an amateur, but we do know that he was making a mark internationally as a teenager, as he competed at the 2011 AIBA World Junior Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan. Unfortunately he was eliminated in his first bout, losing a competitive bout to local fighter Erbolat Ermekov at 57KG's.
In 2013, whilst still a teen, Rakhimov won the first of 3 Tajik national championships, repeating the feat in 2014 and 2015 as he dominated the domestic scene.
Of course it wasn't only domestic competitions that Rakhimov competed in. In 2013, at the World Championships in Kazakhstan, he reached the last 16 before being eliminator by Ermek Sakenov. In 2014 he reached the quarter finals of the Serik Konakbayev Prizes Tournament, and later went on to win bronze at the World University Championships eliminating talented Uzbek Ravshanbek Umurzakov along the way.
Sadly an appearance at the 2016 Rio Olympics eluded Rakhimov after he lost to Indian fighter Manoj Kumar in the quarter finals of the World Olympic Qualifier in Azerbaijan.
Like many Central Asian fighters Rakhimov had his eyes on success in both of the amateur ranks and professional ranks. Despite wanting to compete at the Rio Olympics, and going to a qualifying event in the summer, he had actually made his professional debut in late 2015. He had signed with Russian based company "RCC Boxing Promotions", and quickly got off to a good startm scoring his first two wins in December 2015, both by stoppage.
Despite viewing the Olympics highly Rakhimov managed to secure 3 more professional wins before the Olympic qualifying event, and was 5-0 (3) by the time he attended the Olympic qualifier. Not only that but he had also answered some questions. He showed his heart with a win over the then 9-0 Mirzhan Zhaxylykov, who dropped Rakhimov before the Tajik bounced back, and showed his stamina with a 6 round win over Musaib Asadov.
Following the Olympic qualifying event Rakhimov began to take the professional game more seriously and in late 2016 scored noteworthy stoppage wins over Filipino fighters Jerry Castroverde and Rolden Aldea. The win over Castroverde sa Rakhimov claim the WBO Inter-Continental Youth Super Featherweight title, which he then defended against Aldea just a month later.
Rakhimov continued to face Filipino fighters in the first half of 2017, stopping Rogelio Jun Doliguez and Jimmy Paypa mid-way through scheduled 10 rounders. Those wins lead him to bigger tests and in September 2017 he over-came tough Mexican fighter Amanuel Lopez, with a 12 round decision, to claim the lightly regarded IBO Super Featherweight world title. This was the first time Rakhimov had been beyond 6 rounds, and again got a chance to answer questions about his potential and his ability.
Despite the IBO title being regarded as a bit of a joke in many places Rakhimov defended it against solid challengers. His first defense saw him stopping former IBF Super Featherweight champion Malcolm Klassen in 8 rounds, giving Klassen his first stoppage in 43 bouts. He then followed that up by stopping the always under-rated Robinson Castellanos in 2 rounds, in what was Castellanos' first bout since losing a split technical decision to WBA "super" champion Jezzrel Corrales. The he notched a third defense, stopping South African challenger Rofhiwa Maemu.
With impressive wins stacking up for the hard hitting southpaw Rakhimov was starting to climb the world rankings, and in September 2019 he got the chance to travel to Southg Africa for an IBF world title eliminator against unbeaten South African slickster Azinga Fuzile. The South African seemed too quick, too smart, and too sharp for Rakhimov through the first 7 rounds, but Rakhimov showed his toughness his desire and his will to win, getting to his man in round 8, and dropping Fuzile twice to force a stoppage.
After the win over Fuzile controversy emerged with Rakhimov's team accused of using illegal substances to help their man. The controversy took another turn with various things reportedly being found in his hotel room. Despite a protest from the IBF the result stood, and Fuzile became the mandatory for the IBF champion.
At the time that was Tevin Farmer, but Farmer would lose the title a few months later to Diaz, meaning Rakhimov became the mandatory to Diaz. After more controversy, with Diaz said to have owed Farmer a rematch, the IBF ordered a bout between Rakhimov and the new champion.
In the ring Rakhimov is a somewhat basic pressure fighter, though he brings his pressure behind deliberate footwork and an awkward southpaw stance. There's no bells and whistles with him and he's not the quickest, sharpest, or smartest. He is however a very strong fighter, with heavy hands, a real will to win and genuine hunger. He looks like the sort of fighter who can be outboxed, as we saw Fuzile do to him, due to his slow and deliberate footwork. However doing it for 12 rounds is a real test anyone's stamina and mental toughness. Getting into a fire fight with him is dangerous, especially with his sneaky body shots and nasty power, though he has been dropped more than once, and there are question marks around his chin.
Win or lose against Diaz we suspect the 26 year will be around the world title picture for the next few years. Rakhimov is young enough to come back from a defeat and certainly has the tools to be in some very interesting bouts. He's not the most natural boxer, but he is a very solid fighter, and that can often be enough to take someone to a world title. Saying that however Rakhimov will certainly be the under-dog when he steps in the ring against Diaz on February 13th.
It's fair to say that February will be a very, very quiet month with only a handful of shows taking place during the month, and sadly that means there are a very small number of bouts to talk about for the month. Despite that we are, of course, bringing you our regular "What's to come" for the month.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Ryu Horikawa (3-0-1, 1) vs Yudai Shigeoka (2-0, 1)
The first notable bout in February featuring Asian fighters will come at Japanese Youth title level as Light Flyweight Ryu Horikawa and Yudai Shigeoka clash in a mouth watering match up. The two youngsters are both tipped for big things during their careers and it's great to see them clashing here, rather than protecting their records like we'd see in other countries. Horikawa is the younger man and is the natural Light Flyweight, however Shigeoka has arguably been more impressive was very impressive in beat Lito Dante in just his second bout. Although not a massive fight this is a very, very interesting one.
Ryo Sagawa (10-1, 5) vs Hinata Maruta (10-1-1, 8)
On the same show as the Japanese Youth title fight we'll also get a mandatory bout for the Japanese Featherweight title as talented champion Ryo Segawa looks for his third defense, and takes on the touted Hinata Maruta in a mouth watering clash. The talented Sagawa has been on a great run of results since an early career loss and looks like a man who could certainly get into the world title mix over the coming years. Although not the most durable, he has been stopped and has been dropped in other bouts, Sagawa is a very talented fighter who can box or fight. As for Maruta the once super-hot prospects has failed to meet the lofty expecations that were on his shoulders when he turned professional, but there is no denying his talent and a win here would put him back on track to bigger and better things.
Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California, USA
Joseph Diaz (31-1, 15) vs Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12)
In the first world title fight to feature an Asian fighter this month we'll see Russian based Tajik fighter Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov take on IBF Super Featherweight champion Joseph Diaz in California. For Rakhimov this is a mandatory title fight he has waited well over a year for, earning the shot in 2019 when he stopped Azinga Fuzile. As for Diaz this will be his first defense of the title that he won in early 2020, when he beat Tevin Farmer. In terms of the match up this one should be an all out action fight between two men who like to come forward. Diaz will be the favourite, but Rakhimov is very much a live under-dog here.
The Flash Grand Ballroom of the Elorde Sports Complex, Paranaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines
Bienvenido Ligas (12-1-1, 9) Vs Alphoe Dagayloan (14-3-6-1, 5)
The first major Filipino bout of the new year takes place on the 13th as the once beaten Bienvenido Ligas takes on the criminally under-rated Alphoe Dagayloan in an excellent Flyweight match up. Coming in Ligas will likely be the slight favourite, given his better reord, but in reality Dagayloan is the more proven and has been impressing in recent years, following a stuttering start to his professional career. This should be a genuinely excellent match up, something we, sadly, don't say often enough about All-Filipiuno bouts.
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
All Japan Rookie of the Year
Not a specific bout here, but something that is worth noting is that February 21st will bring us the All Japan Rookie of the Year final, ending what has been a delayed and belated tournament. Despite the hiccups along the way, caused by Covid19, we are really looking forward to this show, which will be shown live on G+ in Japan and will almost certainly help launch one or two prospects towards bigger and better things.
Bula Gym, General Santos City, Philippines
Pedro Taduran (14-2-1, 11) Vs Rene Mark Cuarto (18-2-2, 11)
In another very interesting all-Filipino bout IBF Minimumweight champion Pedro Taduran will defend his title, for the second time, as he takes on IBF #3 ranked challenger Rene Mark Cuarto in a really mouth watering match up. Taduran, who won the title in 2019 with a thrilling performance against Samuel Salva, has sadly been out of the ring for a year since making his first defense. As for Cuarto he's unbeaten in his last 3 but has been out of the ring since December 2019. On paper this is, by far, the toughest bout of Cuarto's career and it'll be very interesting to see what he has to offer at world level against an aggressive and heavy handed champion.
Tynyshpayev Academy of Transport and Communications, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Kamshybek Kunkabayev (2-0, 2) Vs Steven Ward (13-1, 4)
In a really nice step up bout unbeaten Kazakh Cruiserweight hopeful Kamshybek Kunkabayev will be battling against Northern Irish fighter Steven Ward in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific title. Kunkabayev, a former Kazakh amateur standout has impressed since turning professional but there are a lot of questions for him to still answer. Sadly we don't actually expect Ward to be able to ask him those questions and if anything we see Kunkabayev having a pretty easy time of things here.
Nurtas Azhbenov (10-0, 4) Vs Evgeny Smirnov (13-1-3, 3)
Unbeaten Kazakh prospect Nurtas Azhbenov takes his next step forward as he takes on the once beaten Evgeny Smirnov, form Russia, in a very credible step up. Azhbenov has frustrated at times, and despite being a very talented fighter seems to lack power and killer instinct with a lot of his bouts meandering to a rather drama free decision. He certainly has skills but he is not the finished article. Smirnov on the other hand has failed to win his last 3, but has been fighting at pretty decent level in recent bouts.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (9-0, 5) vs TBA
Unbeaten Kazakh hopeful Zhanibek Alimkhanuly will look to stay busy as he takes on a yet to be named opponent late in the month. The talented Middleweight is looking to secure a world title fight later this year, and although this will likely just be a stay busy bout it's great to see him staying active after a frustrating 2020 that saw him unable to build on a solid KO win against Gonzalo Gaston Coria. It's clear that Alimkhanuly is a talent and although we want to see him prove that talent against good fighters we would prefer him staying busy rather than sitting on the side lines waiting for a bout. With that in mind we can't complain too much at the TBA status of his opponent,
Talgat Shayken (3-0, 2) Vs Evgeny Pavko (18-3-1, 13)
Another unbeaten Kazakh prospect in action here is Talgat Shayken, who battles against the much more experienced Evgeny Pavko. The talented Shayken turned professional last year, and despite a rather crude performance on his debut he has impressed in his last 2 bouts and he appears to be a fighter heading places in the coming years. Despite bot being the most polished fighter Shayken is aggressive, strong and very fun to watch. Pavko on the other hand is an experienced Russian, who has lost 3 of his last 6. Despite his faltering form Pavko should, potentially, be a decent test for Shayken over 8 rounds.
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida, USA
Zhang Zhilei (22-0, 17) v Jerry Forrest (26-4, 20)
Chinese Heavyweight giant Zhang Zhilei continues to waste his career as he takes on American foe Jerry Forret. The 37 year old Zhang has been linked to an Anthony Joshua fight for the last few years, but in reality is trudging along with rather meaningless bouts, and this is another for "Big Bang", who really should have been in with a notable name by now. The 32 year old Jerry Forrest is actually a decent opponent, and gave good tests to Jermaine Franklin and Carlos Takam, but isn't the type of name opponent Zhilei needs to push forward with his career. In fact Forrest is the type of high risk-low reward opponent that doesn't make sense for Zhilei at this point in his career.
This past week has been a strange one for Asian boxing, as very little notable action actually took place in Asia, with very few shows taking place in the Orient. There was the odd card, such as the Rookie of the Year shows in Tokyo and the show in Singapore, but in reality there wasn't much of note. As a result many of the awards winners this week fought outside of Asia, though really did provide so much excitement.
Fighter of the Week
Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 9)
Tajik born Russian based Super Featherweight Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov proved his value with a great on Sunday when he stopped the previously unbeaten Azinga Fuzile in an IBF Super Featherweight world title eliminator. Rakhimov went in as the under-dog, fighting in Fuzile's back yard and for the most was out boxed, out sped, out thought and out fought. Fuzile's success left Rakhimov in a hole on the scorecards but the heavy handed fighter refused to accept defeat and in round 8 went about changing the nature of the fight, roughing up Fuzile. When he did that he broke through, dropping the South African twice to secure the win, and a huge title showdown with Tevin Farmer.
Performance of the Week
Batyr Akhmedov (7-1, 6)
Whilst we were massively impressed with Rakhimov the performance of the week belongs to Uzbek born fighter Batyr Akhmedov, who put in an amazing performance against Mario Barrios in a bout for the WBA "regular" Light Welterweight title. Akhmedov was dropped in round 4 then seemed to come alive, setting an incredible pace from round 5 to the final bell. Sadly Rakhimov was dropped in round 12 but had put in a performance that will leave fans talking for a while. He may have lost the bout, by decision, but Akhmedov impressed, proved he belonged at world level and showed he had the energy and style to be a genuine fan favourite. The bout may have come a touch too early in his career, but he made the most of his chance and will almost certainly have improved his standing, despite the defeat.
Batyr Akhmedov vs Mario Barrios
Akhmedov's effort in his loss to Barrios was incredible. The fight was fought at a high tempo through out, the momentum shifted, from a good start to Barrios, a strong middle for Akhmedov and then a big turn around in round 12 with Barrios knockdown. This was one of the most dramatic fights of the year, and it's just a shame that the judges scorecards left a bad taste over what had been an incredible fight, and a great showing of heart, determination and will from both.
Batyr Akhmedov Vs Mario Barrios (Rd12)
We stick with the Akhmedov Vs Barrios for the round of the week, which wasn't the most exciting round, but was the most dramatic. Akhmedov was in the ascendancy, he was pressing the fight and bringing the pressure. Barrios was badly swollen, looking tired and seemingly desperate to stay up right. Then with about 20 seconds left he scored his second knockdown of the fight. This wasn't an all action round, and put into isolation it wasn't an amazing round, but in context of the fight and the drama the round had this was amazing.
Jin Sasaki TKO1 Tetsuya Kondo
Although not the most significant KO of the week the one that really stood out as being the most aesthetically pleasing came in a Rookie of the Year bout, as teenager Jin Sasaki took out Tetsuya Kondo. Aftr just over 2 minutes Sasaki dropped Kondo for the first time. Kondo got back to his feet and about 20 seconds later Sasaki landed a truly sweet left hook that sent Kondo crashing to the canvas. This was a gorgeous KO, and whilst not the most destructive or important it was worth watching over and over.
Rei Nakajima (2-0)
Despite the Rookie of the Year action there wasn't much action featuring notable prospects. There was some talented Filipino's in mismatches at the start of the week but the mismatches certainly don't help their claim. Instead the one that stood out was was Rei Nakajima, who went 6 rounds in a clear win over Korean Se Yul Yang. Nakajima is a genuine talent and whilst Yang wasn't competitivehe did travel to win and forced Nakajima to remain sharp. It's a shame the top Filipino prospects didn't fight some what testing opponents at the start of the week.
Junto Nakatani (19-0, 14) vs Milan Melindo (37-4, 13)
There are a number of compelling match ups over the next 7 days, including 2 world title bouts and numerous bouts featuring prospects. For us the bout that stands out the most is the cross roads bout between rising contender Junto Nakatani and former world champion Milan Melindo. For Nakatani this is expected to be a legitimate test, his first real test since his Rookie of the Year days, whilst Melindo is looking to keep his career alive, and move towards one final world title bout. This is a really intriguing bout, and although there's no world title up for grabs, we see this as being the best of this weeks upcoming fights and the one which has the potential to launch a new star.
This week hasn't been a week with a huge amount of activity but there was a lot of talking points, some really amazing fights and some great performances. A week where quality certainly made up for a relative lack of quantity.
Fighter of the Week
Bakhodir Jalolov (6-0, 6)*
For the first time since we began doing these awards the Fighter of the Week has been won by someone who didn't fight in a professional bout. Instead it's gone to a man who picked up 4 wins in a week and won the World Amateur Championships. That is Uzbek Super Heavyweight Bakhodir Jalolov, who got people talking about the World Amateur Championships in a way that really did bring extra attention to the tournament. We know some are against professionals fighting in amateur tournaments but we've yet to see them have any notable success, that was until Jalolov, who won took gold and show that fighters can do both, pro and amateur boxing.
Performance of the Week
Taku Kuwahara (6-0, 4)
Japanese hopeful Taku Kuwahara took a big step up in class and dominated Filipino foe Jonathan Refugio over 8 rounds. Kuwahara showed his technical ability, speed and movement against Refugio, who was tough but totally out fought, out boxed, out classed and out-sped. Although not one of the more well known prospects in Japan Kuwahara is making a mark and looks like a youngster who is going to be ready for title fights very soon. His performance here was excellent, and the only thing it missed was a stoppage.
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa
We had some absolutely brilliant fights this past week, but the pick of them was then back and forth 8 round thriller between Masaka Taniguchi and Kai Ishizawa, who faced off in a Japanese title eliminator. Both of these men had a lot to gain from a win, and both fought as if winning was worth everything. The opening round saw both men being rocked, rounds 2-4 saw Taniguchi set a high pace and out box Ishizawa, before Ishizawa began to get close and dropped Taniguchi. The final rounds were all out action and the bout really exceeded all expectations. A truly fantastic fight
Masataka Taniguchi Vs Kai Ishizawa (Rd 6)
Our fight of the week also gave us the round of the week. The 6th round of the bout was something that was out of a movie. It was 3 minutes of back and forth brutality, both men hammering away with bombs. Whilst Minimumweights often have a reputation for not being able to punch both of these guys were rocked in the round, and both were fighting at such an incredible pace that you couldn't catch your breath.
Notable - Kento Matsuoka vs Suguru Ishikawa (Rd4)
Bakhodir Jalolov KO1 Richard Torrez
The big fuss this week was whether amateur fighters should be allowed to fight in the amateurs, with the WBC stating they shouldn't due to one brutal incident. That was the opening round KO win for Bakhodir Jalolov, who took out Richard Torrez in frightening fashion. The 20 year Torrez, one of the big hopes for the US, had won his first 2 bouts in World Amateur Championships and reached the Quarter finals where he faced Jalolov. With less than a 20 seconds of the round left the lanky Uzbek landed a booming left hand that put Torrez down hard. Whether you're in the camp of not letting pro's in amateur tournaments or not, one thing is clear, this was a KO of the Year contender.
Notable-Froilan Saludar KO8 Tsubasa Murachi
Kudura Kaneko (11-0, 8)
Japanese-Afghan Kudura Kaneko scored one of his best win to date as he stopped veteran Moon Hyon Yun, a man who had never been stopped and was pretty much known for his toughness. Kaneko boxed well behind his jab to begin with, then been Yun at his own game, fighting on the inside and breaking down the veteran. The stoppage seemed questionable, but it felt very inevitable that Kaneko was going to beat and stop Yun. Kaneko might not be well known internationally but we have a feeling that a lot of fans will hear a lot about him over the next 12-24 months. He is a class fighter, with a great back story and a very easy to watch style.
Notable - Carl Jammes Martin
Azinga Fuzile (14-0, 8) vs Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (14-0, 11)
Unbeaten men colliding in a world titlke eliminator is always a good thing, and next week end we see just that as South African Azinga Fuzile takes on Russian based Tajik Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in a bout that has all the ingredients to be something very special. The styles should gel, both men will be out there for a win and both are solid punching fighters with sound boxing skills. This might not be an all out war, but should be a very compelling, high tempo and hard hitting battle.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces