JoJo Diaz needed a strong finish against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov if he wanted to avoid further disappointment this weekend.
Diaz, who lost his IBF junior lightweight belt on the scales after missing the weight limit, appeared to be headed toward the second loss of his pro career. A late rally allowed Diaz to salvage an otherwise lackluster couple of days.
Diaz and Rakhimov fought to a majority draw in a bout for the IBF's 130-pound title on Saturday at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. Two judges scored the bout 114 apiece, while another had it 115-113 for Diaz. The title remains vacant.
"It was a close fight," Diaz said in his postfight interview on DAZN. "It wasn't my best performance. Obviously, I didn't make weight."
When Diaz, a Southern California native, missed the weight limit by a staggering 3.6 pounds, it meant he couldn't retain his title even if he beat little-known Rakhimov, of Tajikistan. All Diaz could do was sustain the momentum in his career with a good performance on Saturday night. But even that was in jeopardy.
Blood leaked from Diaz's nose after the first two rounds, and Rakhimov cranked up the pressure with a steady barrage of punches down the middle. The challenger took advantage of lulls in Diaz's action, which prompted a sense of urgency from his corner.
As the fight entered the ninth round, it was tied on two of the official scorecards. After Rakhimov (15-0-1, 12 KOs) controlled the action for the middle rounds, Diaz (31-1-1, 15 KOs) put some late pressure to avoid the defeat. According to the CompuBox numbers, Diaz outlanded Rakhimov in the final four rounds.
In fact, Diaz did enough to actually build a small lead heading into the championship rounds. However, Rakhimov responded by winning the final two rounds on all three scorecards after heeding the advice of his trainer, Freddie Roach, who urged Rakhimov to throw more punches.
While Diaz was more accurate with his shots and landed 31.5% of them, according to CompuBox, Rakhimov threw over 200 more punches.
"I think I did everything what is possible for me to do," Rakhimov said through a translator in his postfight interview. "But it looks like there were a few mistakes, and we're going to be working on those mistakes."
Rakhimov made Diaz answer plenty of questions throughout the fight. Diaz was forced to counter the Rakhimov's straightforward attack and an aggression level that was unrelenting until the final four rounds.
But this weekend was mainly about the questions Diaz raised himself. Initially, Diaz apologized for missing the weight and surrendering his belt and didn't want to offer any excuses.
That changed a few minutes later in his postfight interview.
"I couldn't make the weight like I used to," Diaz said. "There was no sauna here in this COVID stuff. They don't have no gym here. They only have a treadmill here"
For Diaz, Saturday's outcome wasn't the worst-case scenario. But it was far from the one he imagined when he claimed the IBF belt with a win over Tevin Farmer in January 2019.
And Diaz and Rakhimov will have to wait a while longer to hold that title.
Castano cruises over Teixeira
Brian Castano used an overwhelming amount of pressure in a lopsided victory over Patrick Teixeira to win the WBO's junior middleweight title. Castano won in a unanimous decision, 120-108, 119-109, 117-111, to pick up one of the four major belts in the division.
Castano (17-0-1, 12 KOs), of Argentina, was successful in close range and had a performance that climaxed in the 12th round. After enduring rounds of punishment, Teixeira (31-2, 22 KOs), of Brazil, absorbed some clean punches and wobbled off the ropes repeatedly in the final minutes. Even though Castano was unable to pick up a stoppage win, the scorecards indicated how dominant he was in victory on Saturday night.