IBF super-featherweight champion Joseph Diaz is expecting a tough assignment in his first defence against unbeaten mandatory contender Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, on Saturday night.

After an unsuccessful WBC 126lbs title bid against the skilful Gary Russell Jr in May 2018, Diaz moved up in weight to topple IBF king Tevin Farmer in late January 2020, in what proved to be one of boxing’s final acts before the first wave of the Coronavirus struck.

The Californian southpaw firmly believes he is the standout fighter at super-featherweight and has vowed to illustrate his credentials in a potentially soul-searching examination against dangerous Russian and fellow portsider Rakhimov (15-0, 12 KOs), live on DAZN tomorrow night. 

“I’m focused on going out there and performing at my best. I want to entertain fight fans and show them what I am all about. I want to show that I am the best at 130lbs,” said Diaz (31-1, 15 KOs).

“It’s been a year-long layoff, but it’s been a great year-long layoff. I was able to witness the birth of my son, and I was able to spend some time away from boxing. I was able to enjoy life as a normal person.

“But now I have this tough challenger ahead of me. We’ve taken this fight very seriously. We know exactly what he is all about. We know what he’s capable of doing, and we know he is a serious threat, but we know we’ll be able to adapt to anything on Saturday night.

“I don’t feel like I get the respect that I deserve in this division. In my career in general, I haven’t gotten the respect that I deserve. But it’s all good. I’ve already dealt with so much adversity in my life. I’m already immune to it. I just focus on training as hard as I can to get the job done that night.

“I faced a bit of adversity in the Gary Russell Jr. fight. I learned a lot that night. But I won’t let anything else prevent me from being what I want to be and doing what I want to do I the ring.

“I’m ready for anything this Saturday. I’m ready for anything that he will bring to the table. If he thinks he will come in here and overwhelm me with his power – that is not going to happen. I’m strong and I’m big just like him. I will be able to take his shots and give them back. I worked my ass off to get this belt, and I’m not letting go.”

Main image: Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy.