Updated: Feb 9, 2021
After a year since his last in-ring appearance—and biggest win—super featherweight titleholder and former U.S. Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr. is set to make his first-ever title defence on Valentine's Day weekend.
Diaz (31-1, 15 KO), who holds the IBF world title at 130 pounds, will be taking on Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (15-0, 12 KO) on Feb. 13 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. The fight was nearly cancelled as Rakhimov tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-January. He has since tested negative for the virus twice since the original test, according to boxing insider Mike Coppinger.
The 28-year-old Diaz from South El Monte, California was signed by Golden Boy Promotions as a highly touted featherweight prospect after the Olympic Games in 2012 and won his first 26 fights before coming up short in his first title opportunity against Gary Russell Jr. in May 2018. After the loss, Diaz moved up in weight and embarked on a five-fight win streak, which culminated in a title-winning effort against defensive slickster Tevin Farmer to win the IBF strap in January 2020. Feb. 13 will be Diaz’ first bout since then.
Despite the lack of notable wins on his resume, the Freddie Roach-trained Rakhimov is currently ranked no. 1 by the IBF and is the mandatory challenger for the title. Many might point to his second round TKO victory over Robinson Castellanos as his most significant. The Russian native has also won his last four bouts by knockout or stoppage, with his most recent being an eighth round TKO over Azinga Fuzile in September 2019. Feb. 13 will be his first fight in the U.S.
A win for Diaz could set up a possible lucrative unification match with the other titleholders at 130 pounds which include: Gervonta Davis, Jamel Herring and the winner of Miguel Berchelt versus Oscar Valdez (this is the most likely option given the promotional landscape of modern boxing). However, an upset win for Rakhimov—a fighter with a high knockout percentage—could shake things up entirely at super featherweight.
Fighter’s Form (last 5 fights):
Joseph Diaz Jr.:
Tevin Farmer - WIN by UD (116-112, 115-113, 115-113) - 30/01/2020
Jesus Cuadro - WIN by MD (116-112, 115-113, 114-114) - 21/09/2019
Freddy Fonseca - WIN by TKO 7 - 04/05/2019
Charles Huerta - WIN by UD (99-91, 99-91, 99-91) - 09/02/2019
Jesus M. Rojas - WIN by UD (117-111, 116-112, 115-113)
Azinga Fuzile - WIN by TKO 8 - 29/09/2019
Rofhiwa Maemu - WIN by TKO after 4 - 23/03/2019
Robinson Castellanos - WIN by TKO 2 - 19/08/2018
Malcolm Klassen - WIN by TKO 8 - 10/02/2018
Emanuel Lopez - WIN by UD 12 - 09/09/2017
Date: February 13th, 2021
Time: 2 am, Feb.14 (UK), 6pm (PT), 9pm (ET)
Venue: Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California, USA
Elsewhere on the card
In the co-main event, WBO super welterweight titleholder Patrick Teixeira (31-1, 22 KO) will defend against Brian Castano (16-0-1, 12 KO). Also featured is Ronny Rios (31-3, 16 KO) taking on Oscar Negrete (19-2-2, 7 KO) in a battle of former world title challengers at super bantamweight.