Joe Cordina scored a stunning second round knockout at home in Cardiff, Wales, and took the IBF junior lightweight title from Kenichi Ogawa in short order.
Cordina (15-0, 9 KO) had been one of Matchroom’s more celebrated prospects, but saw his career stagnate a bit the last few years, before getting this opportunity and taking a major step up in class against Ogawa (26-2-1, 18 KO), a proven world-level fighter and defending titleholder.
Cordina did come in the slight betting favorite, but that may have been mainly because he was the home fighter, and the odds suggested that if he were to win, it would go to the cards. It did not.
After a nervy first round where the two felt one another out and Ogawa, 34, landed a couple of solid power shots in the final minute, Cordina was able to catch the Japanese veteran with a shocker of a right hand, and the fight was suddenly over at an official time of 1:15 in round two.
Ogawa did try to get up, but just could not, with the referee reaching a count of 10.
After the fight, Ogawa looked OK, and was up and congratulating Cordina, raising his hand and acknowledging him to the fans at Motorpoint Arena, who had an electric energy. Cordina responded with respect to Ogawa, too, and asked the same of his fans.
“It feels amazing. The support I had here tonight was unbelievable,” Cordina said after the fight. “I’m a bit speechless. You get caught with shots early on in fights. He’s a puncher on paper, and I could feel (his power), but it was nothing I haven’t felt before. I sparred big punchers in this camp. I’ve been in with Conor Benn, who’s probably the most explosive puncher in the world at the moment. So compared to that power, (Ogawa) don’t even compare.
“We worked hard in the gym, practicing certain things. When he was twitchy early on, we knew that was what he was going to do. I knew to keep stepping to my right, and that’s what I did.”
“We call it the Roberto Duran,” Cordina said of the finishing punch. “We’ve been working on it all camp. It’s an amazing feeling when you put hours and hours and hours of work into a certain combination or punch, and you don’t even think about it, it comes off, and lights out, it’s over.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn, predictably, was over the moon, and mentioned unified WBC and WBO titleholder Shakur Stevenson as a possible future opponent.
“It’s how you win a world title. People questioned the power of Joe Cordina, and tonight he announced himself to the world,” he said. “Tonight, Joe Cordina becomes the 13th world champion from Wales. If Welsh boxing needed a shot in the arm, this is the young man to do it. He’s a great ambassador and a great role model.
“Shakur Stevenson is an unbelievable fighter, but that’s the kind of levels and dreams Joe Cordina has got to have to be undisputed.”
Ogawa vs Cordina highlights
Undercard highlights and results
- Zelfa Barrett UD-12 Faroukh Kourbanov: The win gives Barrett (28-1, 16 KO) the European junior lightweight title. Scores were 118-110, 119-109, and 120-108; I thought the latter two gave Kourbanov (19-4, 3 KO) absolutely no credit for having some good rounds, but I also scored it 117-111 for Barrett. Kourbanov, a 30-year-old born in Kyrgyzstan and based in Belgium, really isn’t a bad fighter at all, but completely lacks power and it limits him severely. He had some good rounds, especially in the early stages, but once Barrett really settled in and found something of a groove — and also a clear lack of worry about what came back from Kourbanov — the fight was his.
Barrett could be in line to fight for a world title off of this. He’s not always the most consistent performer, but he is talented, and his fight was on this card for a reason.
- Dalton Smith RTD-6 Mauro Perouene: Nothing tough for 25-year-old junior welterweight Smith, who goes to 11-0 (9 KO) after the corner of Perouene (14-6-1, 7 KO) stopped this following a knockdown at the end of round five. Perouene, who came in on short notice, probably could have continued, but there was no point, as the 24-year-old from Argentina was doing no more than hanging tough. He’s now 3-4 in his last seven fights. Smith really is either the best or one of the very best Matchroom prospects at the moment, a guy to keep an eye on if you aren’t already. They’re talking about a British title fight next, with that title currently vacant.
- Skye Nicolson PTS-8 Gabriela Bouvier: This was Nicolson’s fourth fight in 91 days, and she’s now 4-0 (0 KO) with an 80-72 referee’s score over Bouvier (15-11-1, 3 KO), who was on paper a “step up” but I really don’t think she was better than Nicolson’s previous opponent, Paisley Davis. The plan was always to do one more fight after her Apr. 30 bout, then take a break and come back later in the year, probably next for Matchroom’s debut in Australia. She admitted she “felt a little bit flat” tonight and may have taken “one fight too many” in too short a time, but she clearly won every round against a former world champion, for whatever that’s worth.
- Gamal Yafai TKO-4 Sean Cairns: A pretty easy comeback fight for Yafai, who lost the European 122 lb title to Jason Cunningham in an upset about 13 months ago. Here, Cairns (8-4, 2 KO) was just deeply over-matched, and Yafai (19-2, 11 KO) came to take care of business and get his career back in gear. Personally, I just don’t think the 30-year-old Yafai (he’s the middle brother between Kal and Galal) is more than a European-level fighter, but he is a good European-level fighter, and he did what he should have done in this matchup. Cairns was down in the third and again in the fourth before it was mercifully stopped.