Azinga Fuzile gets another elimination bout as his Russian victor escapes sanction

Azinga Fuzile will have another shot at a world title.
Azinga Fuzile will have another shot at a world title.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Azinga Fuzile will get another shot at an elimination contest for the IBF junior-lightweight crown‚ but his conqueror from last year‚ Russia’s Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov‚ has escaped sanction.

A three-person IBF panel that deliberated on an appeal lodged after the South African’s controversial loss in the 2019 eliminator has ruled that Fuzile would be ordered to compete in another elimination where the winner would get to challenge for title honours by April 30‚ 2021.

The previously unbeaten Fuzile was leading on points when he was stopped in the eighth round by Rakhimov in East London last year.

In the break before the fateful round‚ one of Rakhimov’s handlers was caught on camera giving the boxer what seemed to be ammonia‚ an illegal substance.

In the footage the fighter flinches when sniffing in the fumes of a white‚ cream-like substance on the second’s glove.

Syringes and empty vials were also found in the Russian’s hotel room after they had left the country.

There was no anti-doping control at the fight; promoters of international title contests must pay the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport to provide testers.

Fuzile’s trainer-manager Colin Nathan had appealed the result of the fight‚ trying to get Rakhimov disqualified or have the bout declared a no-contest.

But the IBF panel on Tuesday upheld Rakhimov as the winner and ordered that he challenge for the world title as the mandatory contender.

“Azinga Fuzile will be ordered to participate in an elimination bout against the leading available contender for the mandatory position in the IBF junior-lightweight division‚” the US-based world sanctioning body’s president Daryl Peoples wrote in a communique.

While ordering new champion Joseph Diaz to make a mandatory defence against Rakhimov by July 30‚ the IBF added that the winner of that fight “will be required to mandatorily defend the IBF junior-lightweight title against the leading available contender by April 30‚ 2021”.

The outcome of the appeal is probably the best Fuzile’s backers could have hoped for — at the very least it keeps him in the mix for a world title tilt.

Changing results to disqualifications or no-contests after the fact is normally done where more compelling evidence is available‚ like a boxer failing a dope test.

The evidence might not have been enough to convict the Russian‚ but it was sufficient to keep Fuzile’s title dreams alive.