Joe Cordina triumphs over Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov
"Welsh Wizard" Joe Cordina (16-0, 9KO) reclaimed the IBF world super-featherweight title with an extremely hard-fought split-decision win over undefeated champion Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (17-1-1, KO).
The 31-year-old Welshman was stripped of the rd and gold title back in October after breaking his right hand, but was able to return with a win in a front of a passionate home crowd.
Cordina, who floored Rakhimov in round two, was pushed to his limits by the defending champion from Tajikistan who showed incredible heart.
However, Cordina took the decision 111-116, 115-112 and 114-113 on the cards.
"Rakhimov's meant to be the bogeyman to everyone in this division," Cordina told 5 Live afterwards.
"He's strong, he's tough but I wanted to show I can stand there and have it with him."
Cordina, trained by Tony Sims in Essex, reclaimed what he felt was rightfully his. Having endured a 10-month absence from the ring with an injury that was career threatening, Cordina was desperate to prove he can be the dominant force in the 130lbs division.
After producing fireworks to win the title from Kenichi Ogawa in June 2022, with a knockout punch in round two that went viral on social media, Cordina was looking to make up for lost time and lost momentum.
Back in his home city, Cordina was again backed to the hilt by a capacity crowd.
Cordina and his promoter Eddie Hearn had spoken in the build-up to the fight of hopes the Cardiff fans would be raucous enough to create a spectacle.
His supporters certainly played their part, pumped up before his ring entrance as special guest Dafydd Iwan performed Yma o Hyd – which has been adopted by the Wales national football team – before an as-ever emotive rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
The louder the atmosphere got, the calmer Cordina seemed, as he shadow-boxed and stared down his opponent.
A cautious opening round saw Cordina find some combinations and he then floored Rakhimov with a left hook to the body in round two to secure a 10-8 session as Rakhimov stumbled back to his corner.
The champion showed his toughness as he did what Ogawa could not, shrugging off a second-round knockdown and coming back at Cordina who never got things his own way.
In round five, Cordina was buzzed by a tremendous right jab to the head from the champion, who was clearly not ready to relinquish his title easily.
Rakhimov was always in the fight, and hurt Cordina again in the 10th round as the two fighters produced a relentless and exciting fight.
With Cordina reclaiming his title and Sandy Ryan winning the WBO welterweight belt in the co-main event, it takes the UK's boxing world champion tally to 10.
Cordina started cautiously – though some fast combinations towards the end of the first round showed confidence in his surgically-repaired hand.
The unbeaten Brit stated he could not worry about re-damaging his hand against Rakhimov, but also acknowledged his worst performance since turning professional was against Faroukh Kourbanov in 2021 after a lengthy lay-off from a hand injury.
Cordina knew he had no room for any ring-rust against an aggressive, front-foot fighter in Rakhimov, especially as the Tajikistan fighter had previously seen 14 of his 17 victories come inside the distance.
The southpaw "Shere Khan" came as advertised, never taking a backward step, but Cordina's faster footwork allowed him to open up the angles to find some telling shots.
A powerful jab from Cordina caused significant swelling to Rakhimov's left eye in round six as the Welshman began to find ways through the champion's defence with three big unanswered right hands.
The swelling Rakhimov endured meant Cordina landed the cleaner shots in the final rounds, though Rakhimov showed his credentials as he kept coming and coming at Cordina, even with his left eye badly swollen.
In terms of sheer will and work-rate, Cordina struggled to match Rakhimov in the latter stages, but still managed to find some telling shots. Over 1300 shots in total were thrown over 12, relentless rounds.
Both fighters raised their arms and took the congratulations of their corners at the final bell, but it was Cordina who took the title and the plaudits after a fantastic fight, winning by the narrowest of margins on the judges' cards to give Welsh boxing a huge boost.
"He is a tough fighter but I felt no-one could beat me tonight," Cordina said.
"He caught me with good shots, I'm fit, have been grafting and there's no way he would beat me, no chance.
"It was hard, I got through it. I know how tough I am."
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