JOSEPH DIAZ’S fight with mandatory challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov was set to be the first defence of his IBF super-featherweight strap. That was until the champion came in three-and-a-half pounds over the 130lb limit at the weigh-in, meaning he was stripped of his belt. Nevertheless, the contest still went ahead at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, albeit with only Rakhimov being eligible to win the championship. In the end, however, the title was left vacant, as the two well-matched southpaws fought to a majority draw.
Despite hitting the target with a sharp arcing right in the second round, 2012 Olympian Diaz struggled to maintain any sort of real rhythm in the first half of the bout, although he did enjoy some success with single strikes. Ekaterinburg’s unbeaten Rakhimov, in contrast, was able to string his shots together with greater frequency in the early going. Making his US debut, the Tajikistan-born Russian found a home for his straight left hand on more than one occasion, with the stabbing blows piercing through Diaz’s guard and leaving him with a bloody nose.
A short counter right hook buzzed Diaz in the seventh, but the 28-year-old from Downey, California was beginning to increase his activity and up his urgency. Some eye-catching exchanges were exhibited in round eight, as both boxers let loose with lashing left hooks. After being in the ascendancy earlier on in the fight, the Freddie Roach-trained Rakhimov, 26, was not as effective in the later rounds, whereas Diaz’s showing improved.
Ultimately, it was a case of Rakhimov being the busier of the two overall, and Diaz demonstrating the better accuracy. In this sense, the draw seemed a fair outcome. Robert Hoyle had Diaz in front by 115-113, but he was overruled by Fernando Villarreal and Zachary Young, who each tallied 114-114. Thomas Taylor refereed.
“It wasn’t my best performance,” Diaz conceded afterwards. “Obviously I didn’t make weight and I vacated my title. It was a mistake on my behalf. But I’m a little upset. It was a close fight but I thought I did enough to win. The guy was throwing a lot of combinations but they were just on my gloves. I thought I was dictating the pace, landing the body shots, hurting him and breaking him down. I thought I should’ve won the fight, but it is what it is. I have to learn from this, take some time off and then get right back to it.”
Although there was no coronation in the main event, there was a new king crowned in the co-feature on this Golden Boy promotion, as undefeated Argentine Brian Castano unseated Brazil’s Patrick Teixeira from the WBO super-welterweight throne.
While the result was up in the air at the final bell of the Diaz-Rakhimov bout, there was no debate as to who had won the South American derby between Castano and Teixeira. The mandatory challenger from Buenos Aires produced an authoritative, full-throttle display to dominate the defending titlist, who in turn showcased his commendable bravery and mettle to last the distance.
Applying incessant pressure throughout, the stocky Castano was completely unfazed by Teixeira’s significant advantages in height and reach as he bullied the Sao Paulo southpaw from the outset. Even when Teixeira managed to connect with clean punches, Castano remained utterly undeterred and continued to swarm forward.
Making the maiden defence of his belt, Teixeira, 30, was forced to withstand some heavy punishment, especially on the inside, yet he battled valiantly until the finish. In the 12th and closing round, Castano had his opponent reeling with a sustained assault to head and body. The 31-year-old chased Teixeira around the ring, searching for the stoppage, but the gusty champion made it through to the end.
Lou Moret (120-108), Mr Hoyle (119-109) and Mr Young (117-111) all scored widely in favour of Castano, who thoroughly deserved his unanimous decision victory. Jack Reiss officiated.