One of last year’s wilder under-the-radar stories began in September when late replacement Shavkat Rakhimov scored a brutal come-from-behind knockout of unbeaten South African sensation Azinga Fuzile, earning a mandatory crack at then-IBF champ Tevin Farmer in the process. A few days later, local authorities discovered a whole mess of drugs in Rakhimov’s hotel room, which the latter’s manager claimed were for his own use in marathon preparation; Rakhimov was already under scrutiny for allegedly using smelling salts before the climactic round, and the IBF only now gave a ruling.
In short, Rakhimov (15-0, 12 KO) is still the mandatory challenger, and newly crowned super featherweight champion Joseph Diaz Jr. must face him by July 30th. Fuzile (14-1, 8 KO) will participate in a new final eliminator, setting up his own title shot by April 30th of next year.
Fuzile’s manager, Colin Nathan, was predictably not happy.
“While I accept the decision of the IBF, I by no means will accept the fact that Rakhimov’s corner were ‘on the level,’” said Nathan in reaction to the ruling.
“Life goes on, as does Azinga’s career.”
Rakhimov will almost assuredly compete under a cloud of suspicion from now on; there is no greater “appearance of impropriety” than a literal room full of drugs. On the bright side, at least Fuzile will get another shot at the big time and has plenty of time to recoup at 23 years old.