Shavkat Rakhimov-Zelfa Barrett title fight being finalized


Shavkat Rakhimov and Zelfa Barrett are in the process of finalizing a deal to fight for the IBF’s vacant junior lightweight title on Nov. 5 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, a source told ESPN.

Rakhimov (16-0-1, 13 KOs) was slated to fight Joe Cordina for the title on that date before the champion withdrew from the bout with a hand injury that required surgery. The IBF informed Cordina (15-0, 9 KOs) on Monday that he was being stripped of the title.

“Absolutely gutted,” Cordina, ESPN’s No. 7 130-pounder, tweeted on Tuesday. “Worked my whole life to become a world champion and I haven’t even had the chance to defend the title. Feel like I’ve been robbed!”

The 30-year-old Welshman will be the mandatory challenger for the winner of the Rakhimov-Barrett fight. He’s expected to be sidelined until March.

When the IBF sanctioned a fight between its then-champion Kenichi Ogawa and Cordina, it did so under the provision that the winner fight Rakhimov by Sept. 2. Cordina, an Olympian, won the title in June with a highlight-reel KO in the second round.

In July, the IBF granted Cordina a medical extension to allow the fight against Rakhimov, the mandatory challenger, on Nov. 5. The IBF granted Cordina another medical extension that would expire on Jan. 4, but the 30-year-old won’t be available to compete until approximately March, according to an orthopedic hand surgeon consulted by the organization.

Rakhimov, ESPN’s No. 2 junior lightweight, was slated to fight Ogawa last year but withdrew because of injury. In his lone title challenge, the Tajikistan-born fighter was held to a draw against Joseph Diaz Jr. in February 2021. Diaz failed to make weight ahead of the fight, so the belt became vacant, setting up Rakhimov, 28, for a mandatory shot.

Barrett (28-1, 16 KOs) isn’t rated by ESPN, but the 29-year-old from Manchester has impressed in a recent string of fights against European-level opposition.

A light heavyweight title fight between Dmitry Bivol and Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez will headline Matchroom Boxing’s Nov. 5 event in Abu Dhabi.


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