No 2-ranked contender Zelfa Barrett is in line to take on Shavkat Rakhimov for the IBF super-featherweight title in Abu Dhabi next month, after champion Joe Cordina was stripped of the crown having sustained a serious hand injury.
The clash, which pits against one another the top two-ranked challengers at 130 lbs, is expected to form part of the November 5 card at Etihad Arena.
The event, the first in the recently signed partnership between the Department of Culture and Toursim – Abu Dhabi and Matchroom Boxing, is headlined by the WBA light-heavyweight title bout between champion Dmitry Bivol and Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez.
Cordina-Rakhimov was supposed to be one of three championship fights on the bill - WBC and IBF women’s junior welterweight title-holder Chantelle Cameron faces undisputed welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill in the other – however the unbeaten Welshman was forced to withdraw after sustaining a hand injury that requires surgery. As such, he relinquished his belt.
Reacting to Tuesday’s news that Cordina was out, Matchroom Sport chairman Eddie Hearn said the IBF had now ordered England’s Barrett (28-1) to fight Rakhimov (16-0-1) instead, with the promoter trying to confirm the bout for Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a 50-50 fight,” Hearn told his Matchroom Boxing channel on Tuesday. “Rakhimov’s a very good fighter, a former world champion, who actually lost the championship himself not in the ring. And Zelfa Barrett is a guy who’s earned his right at a shot. He fought an IBF final eliminator against [Bruno] Tarimo.
“He’s ready to go. This is a massive opportunity for him in neutral territory, on a massive show, to go and change his life. The new fight: Rakhimov against Zelfa Barrett for the IBF world title.”
Hearn said Barrett has been in training given he was slated to fight next month anyway, but added that talks are continuing with all parties to book the Rakhimov bout in Abu Dhabi. He said an announcement will be made "in due course".
Hearn also confirmed Cordina (15-0) would be guaranteed the winner next year, once he returns from injury.