Former world champion, Joe Cordina, heads into another hometown world title fight seeking justice from being wrongly stripped of his IBF Super-Featherweight Title.
Cordina required surgery on his hand after his stunning stoppage victory over Kenichi Ogawa with the IBF making the bewildering decision of stripping the Welshman of the world title that he'd just got his hands on. Considering it will be less than 12 months since the Ogawa fight when Cordina makes his return on Saturday night, the decision highlights the current state of boxing.
There have never been any doubts over Cordina’s ability and the belief that he would be an elite-level fighter one day. However, the way he captured his IBF title shocked many and rightly so. A sensational punch two rounds into the fight with Ogawa sent his opponent to sleep. Now this weekend in an attempt to win his world strap back, Cordina will be looking to build off the back of that win.
Having had surgery to correct a hand issue, Cordina will be looking to blow the cobwebs off and cement his legacy within Welsh boxing history as a two-time champion of the world (even though boxing politics mean he is fighting for the title again and not making his first defence). A world champion in 14 fights, Cordina fulfilled his destiny early on in his career. The Cardiff native will be supremely confident he gets the job done again in front of his adoring Welsh following.
In his six years as a professional, the former Team GB Olympic star has barely lost a round and has quite frankly not even looked close to showing any weaknesses. Although he may not be the most charismatic individual who shouts his name from rooftops, Cordina has certainly began to make his mark within the super-featherweight division. Saturday night’s redemption will put the Welshman firmly back on the road to superstardom.
The man looking to deny Cordina of two-time status is little-known Shavkat Rakhimov of Tajikistan. Despite not being a household name in the division or the sport, Rakhimov is an extremely dangerous operator, who boasts an impressive 14 stoppage victories in 17 wins. A two-time world champion himself, Rakhimov has an undefeated record of 17-0-1, with the one slight blemish on his record being a majority draw with Joseph Diaz - albeit a controversial fight and result.
Rakhimov after beating Zelfa Barrett to secure the IBF super-featherweight title
Current IBF super-featherweight champion Rakhimov secured the title when he stopped Cordina's fellow Brit Zelfa Barrett in Round 9 last time out. Many felt Barrett was out of his depth in that fight with Rakhimov, and this was arguably proven by the stoppage.
However, Rakhimov himself did have to come through some adversity of his own after being dropped early in the fight by Barrett. To his credit, Rakhimov bit down on his gumshield and showed the grit and determination needed to become a world champion. He certainly didn't have it all his own way in the Barrett fight, but ultimately he came through serious adversity and prevailed.
Heavy-handed Rakhimov will be heading into fight night as the underdog and will be confident he can break the heart of another British fighter - this time having the chance to upset the heavy odds on British soil.
As the old cliché goes, styles make fights. On Saturday night that cliché most certainly comes into play. Cordina has an excellent 'box and move' style with lightning fast combinations, which will be matched against the heavy-handed Rakhimov who will be looking to take the fight to Cordina. Will it be another stunning knockout from Cordina or will he simply shut Rakhimov out for 12 rounds? Can the unbeaten Rakhimov make a name for himself on UK shores by stopping the Welshman in his own country? Tune in on Saturday to find out...
Joe Cordina (15-0, 9 KO's)
Kenichi Ogawa - Win - TKO
Miko Khatchatryan - Win - UD
Joshuah Hernandez - Win - KO
Faroukh Kourbanov - Win - MD
Shavkat Rakhimov (17-0-1, 14 KO's)
Zelfa Barrett - Win - TKO
Sardor Muzaffarov - Win - RTD
Joseph Diaz - Draw - MD
Azinga Fuzile - Win - TKO
Elsewhere on the card, Gavin Gwynne and Craig Woodruff rematch for the British Lightweight Title, Zelfa Barrett fights for the WBA Continental Super-Featherweight Title, Sandy Ryan contests Marie Pier Houle for the WBO World Welterweight Title. Also featuring on the bill is a compelling cruiserweight fight as Jordan Thompson faces Luke Watkins with Skye Nicolson, Sammy Lee, Brandon Scott, Nathan Howells and Miles Gordon-Derby making up the best of the rest.
Official Fight Night Poster (Photo: @MatchroomBoxing Twitter)