Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov’s bailout knockout of Azinga Fuzile made for an instant highlight reel, though the drama surrounding the bout is hardly limited to its shock ending.
BoxingScene.com learned that the handlers for Fuzile (14-1, 8KOs) are examining the process for filing an official protest with the South Africa boxing commission and the International Boxing Federation regarding Sunday’s super featherweight title eliminator in East London South Africa.
The night ended with Russia’s Rakhimov rallying from a hopeless deficit on the scorecards to twice drop and eventually stop the local favorite in eight rounds.
How he reached that point, however, is now being called into question.
Extensive video replay of the fight by Fuzile’s team exposed a critical sequence in between rounds seven and eight. Rakhimov was on his corner stool receiving instructions from charged-up head trainer Nikola Popov, who was concerned that his boxer was on the verge of losing the fight.
During such sequence, assistant trainer Ruslan Agishev can be seen administering what appears to be smelling salts or a similar product underneath Rakhimov’s nostrils. The boxer’s facial expressions indicate a strong reaction as he turns away his head before regaining his bearings.
Smelling salts have been banned from boxing since the 1970s. Specifically to this event, the practice is prohibited in accordance with rule #7 as stated in the Boxing South Africa handbook:
No stimulant (including, but not limited to smelling salts or ammonia) may be given to a boxer other than water sprinkled on the body or used as a mouth wash or drink.
Rakhimov came out strong to begin round eight, although Fuzile was still able to score with left hand shots upstairs. A dramatic shift in momentum came near the final minute of the round, when a straight left hand by the visiting Russian dumped Fuzile on the canvas for the first of two knockdowns.
The local contender beat the count but was unable to fend off his resurgent challenger. Fuzile was smothered in a corner, absorbing a number of left hands and body shots before a final left hand upstairs put him flat on his back. Referee Deon Dwarte had the sense to wave off the contest on the spot, immediately motioning for ringside physicians to tend to the fallen boxer.
With the win, Rakhimov became the mandatory contender to reigning IBF super featherweight titlist Tevin Farmer, who is permitted to first take a voluntary defense. That will likely come versus 2012 U.S. Olympian and title hopeful Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz as the two sides are in talks for a fight they hope to stage later this year.
Whether or not Rakhimov will remain the mandatory challenger in waiting will entirely depend on what comes of the current review process. Fuzile’s team has informed BoxingScene.com that they plan to make “relevant calls with Boxing South Africa (the presiding commission) and the IBF, then see what the process is from there.”