Former two-weight champion turned boxing analyst Timothy Bradley believes IBF super-featherweight king Joseph Diaz’s mandatory defence against Russian dangerman Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov next weekend has all the elements of a ‘fight of the year’ contender.
In an intriguing all-southpaw battle, Diaz (31-1, 15 KOs) defends his IBF crown against the Russian challenger at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California (broadcast live on DAZN), with Bradley among those expecting a tough assignment.
A devilish puncher, Rakhimov (15-0, 12 KOs) possesses a stiff left hand and clever feet, and this fight could go right down to the wire, according to former 140lbs and 147lbs title holder Bradley.
“Diaz is in there against a dangerous guy in Rakhimov. Rakhimov checks a lot of the same boxes as the great Russian fighters we’ve seen in the past. He’s as tough as they come,” Bradley told Espn.com. “Rakhimov has a height advantage over Diaz, as well as the reach advantage. Even so, Rakhimov is not someone who simply relies on his reach to create the advantage, as his main goal in every fight is to break his opponent down in order to set up an opening for a knockout.
“Rakhimov is relentless. He’s a fast starter and he stays in your face from the opening bell. It’s going to be interesting to see how quickly Diaz is going to be able to react and adjust to the pace that Rakhimov is going to bring. Diaz isn’t a slow starter, per se, but he’s more of a technical fighter who tends to sit back, use his jab and look for his opportunities.
“The first six rounds of this fight are going to be very interesting and it’s going to be a major test to see if Diaz is going to be able to keep up with the fast pace that Rakhimov is going to bring. If he weathers that storm, I think the later rounds will favour the fighter with more experience, Diaz, and he can win on the cards.
“Diaz has to be very careful and pick his spots wisely in the early rounds. I don’t know how Rakhimov’s conditioning is going to be in the later rounds, so if Diaz can dig down to the body early and slow Rakhimov down, I think that’s going to make it harder for Rakhimov to utilise that power and create opportunities to land big power punches late.
“I wouldn’t be too surprised if there was an upset and Rakhimov walks out with a KO victory. But I am ultimately going to pick Diaz in this fight, for a couple of key reasons. Going to the body is going to pay off as the fight goes on and, in general, Diaz is more defensively sound. He can hit, he can take a punch and he’ll keep on moving.
“Don’t be surprised when all is said and done if this fight is up there in terms of fight of the year consideration, because of what both guys bring to the table and the stylistic matchup between them. Despite their differences, they both come to fight every time out and neither is likely to back down.”