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Rakhimov vs. Nunez IBF 130-Pound Eliminator on Feb. 16 in Dushanbe

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Some quick research (thanks to BoxRec) shows that Tajikistan, a small Asian state north of India and Afghanistan, west to China, and east to Uzbekistan, hosted just nine professional boxing shows in its history. To be precise, the very first of those events, which took place in August 1991 and featured 90’s fringe featherweight contender Andrey Sinepupov (who is Ukrainian), was staged when Tajikistan was still a part of the Soviet Union.

Prizefighting was sporadic in Tajikistan until recently and mostly associated with Sherali Mamadaliev, another fringe contender in the early 10’s.

The situation changed considerably over the last two years. A new generation of Tajik fighters started to make names both in professional and amateur boxing. Shavkat Rakhimov briefly held IBF super featherweight title in 2022/2023, becoming the first-ever Tajik major beltholder. Mukhammadkhuja Yakubov, another world-rated Tajik, lost to O’Shaquie Foster on points in the WBC eliminator in 2022. And young lightweight Bakhodur Usmonov combined a steadfast rise in pro ranks with continuous amateur success, culminating in the 2023 WC bronze.

The other aspect is that all three (and many others) were competing mostly in Russia and under a Russian license. It helped catapult them in world rankings but became a roadblock after the war between Russia and Ukraine and subsequent sanctions from major sanctioning bodies. 

The three will be featured in the night of boxing, which takes place on Friday, February 16th, in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. The boxing event, which will combine amateur/semiprofessional and professional fights will be organized by the International Boxing Association.

The main event will be a 10-round IBA fight for a vacant IBA belt (not usually considered a professional title) between Sharabutdin Ataev of Russia (6-0, 4 KOs as a pro) and Azerbaijan-based Cuban Lauren Alfonso Dominguez (no fights as a pro). Those two fought three times before; the current score is 2-1 in favor of the Russian.

For pugilistic fans, the most interesting bout is a co-feature. Former IBF champion Shavkat Rakhimov (17-1-1, 14 KOs) will make his comeback to the ring for the first time since his split decision loss to Joe Cordina in April 2023. IBF #3 Rakhimov, a crude boxer-puncher, faces another puncher in IBF #4 Mexican Eduardo Nunez (26-1, 26 KOs), who will travel out of Mexico for the first time in his career. Nunez’s most recent win was a kayo over experienced Colombian veteran Oscar Escandon. The fight is the IBF eliminator and will determine the IBF #1-ranked boxer.

In IBA-related fights, Usmonov (7-0, 3 KOs) faces Lal Chu En, while Yakubov (21-1, 11 KOs) takes on Azerbaijani amateur veteran Javid Chalabiyev. Also, the 2019 world champion Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov (4-0, 3 KOs as a pro) clashes against Mexican Luis Rodriguez Ocana (15-0, 14 KOs) in the IBA eliminator for its vacant title at 125 lbs.

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