Joe Cordina wins savage struggle with Shavkat Rakhimov to reclaim stolen belt

Joe Cordina (right) dropped Shavkat Rakhimov en route to a decision win

Sign up to our free sport newsletter for all the latest news on everything from cycling to boxing

Sign up to our free sport email for all the latest news

Thanks for signing up to the
Sport email

Joe Cordina came through the hardest fight of his life to regain his world title on Saturday night in Cardiff.

Cordina won a split decision over Shavkat Rakhimov in yet another contender for fight of the year. The IBF super-featherweight title was the official prize, but the real prize was a sense of justice, a feeling that a wrong had been corrected.

Last summer, in the same ring, Cordina won the IBF super-featherweight belt with the most perfect single-punch knockout. On that hot night, Kenichi Ogawa went down for the full count; Cardiff had a hometown-hero world champion and then it started to go wrong.

Cordina agreed to defend against Rakhimov, the fight was set for November in Abu Dhabi; it was always going to be a hard night in the ring for Cordina. In August he was back in the gym, and in the first round, the first spar, the first right hand he threw went crack on impact. It was broken. The fight was off, then the IBF stripped him, he had an operation on the hand in September and Rakhimov won the vacant title in November – he won Joe’s belt. The punch that won Cordina the title was the same punch that lost him the title. It was cruel.

Eddie Hearn, the promoter, did a deal to bring Rakhimov and the IBF belt back to Cardiff. Cordina finished camp with two good hands and revenge on his mind – he wanted to regain his belt, the stolen belt. Three days before the fight, the venue sold out. It was a massive night for Welsh boxing and a test of Cordina’s nerve as his anthem filled the hall, topless men raised their pints above their heads and howled. It was moving, emotional and Cordina was calm, he was magnificent.


“I now have back what was always mine,”said Cordina. He does and it was a savage struggle.

Cordina dropped Rakhimov in Round 2 and came close to stopping him in Round 7 of a fight that was relentless and brutal. It took a visible toll and there is every chance that there will be some invisible damage to the men; Cordina was exhausted, Rakhimov’s left eye was swollen, bruised and closing from early in the fight. It was the type of fight that can leave scars; Rakhimov needed to sit and recover at the final bell during the long, long wait for the scores. Cordina was lifted by glory.

It was the damaged eye, combined with Cordina’s accuracy, that came close in Round 7 to ending the fight – Cordina hit him with every shot he threw, including a savage trio of single right crosses. They each slammed into the bruised eye socket. And each one was met by a triumphant roar from the 5,000 fanatics in the venue. The crowd in Cardiff at prizefights is, without doubt, one of the most bloodthirsty hordes in the world.

Cordina celebrates in front of his hometown crowd (David Davies/PA)

However, Rakhimov never fully lost his vision in the left eye and that knowledge kept the referee, Steve Gray, from calling in the doctor. In Round 8, Rakhimov changed his feet slightly and won the round; Cordina just could not find the target cleanly and that is because timing fades when tiredness takes over. It is a hard and unforgiving business and Rakhimov was a living example of the extremes. At the end, Rakhimov was in tears, his head bowed, his body shaking with sorrow and loss. Cordina’s grin could not have been bigger if he was an animated character. It was joy and relief on his smiling face.

Cordina was brilliant in most rounds – mixing his style, standing, moving, switching – and Rakhimov just kept pushing, getting close, letting his head and hands go. In the last round, with the fight’s outcome finely poised, Cordina found his dancing boots and jabbed with sense to the bell. He took that round on my scorecard to deserve the decision. In the Rakhimov corner, veteran trainer Freddie Roach knew his man had fallen just short. It was a split decision, but the right man won. If Cordina had not dropped Rakhimov with the perfect left hook in Round 2, he would have lost a split decision.


It was a glorious night for Cordina to end a bad few months. It was a night of justice in the ring and that is always something to celebrate.

Click here to subscribe to The Independent’s Sport YouTube channel for all the latest sports videos.

Source: Read Full Article