After more than a year on the sidelines, IBF super featherweight champion Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz 31-1 (15) is ready to get back to work when he takes on mandatory challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov 15-0 (12) at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California on Saturday night.
The fight will be the first time Diaz has defended the title he won on points from Tevin Farmer 30-5-1 (6) at Meridian at Island Gardens in Miami, Florida in January last year.
The 28-year-old Californian southpaw says the enforced break has actually worked in his favor.
“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 130 pounds,” Diaz said.
“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.”
Russian southpaw Rakhimov, 28, is on a four-fight knockout streak and is keen to extend it to five.
“I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. My dream has finally come true, so I am very glad,” he said.
“Our game plan this Saturday is to do anything possible to win the fight. The key is to do anything that needs to be done to win. Diaz is going to be in for a big surprise on Saturday.”
Diaz, who lost his first world title tilt to WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr 31-1 (18) on points almost three years ago, believes fans and pundits are sleeping on him.
“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,” Diaz said.
“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.”
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