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Joe Cordina wins split decision over Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, regains IBF title

(Photo via Twitter @MatchroomBoxing)
Fighters Network

Joe Cordina became a two-time junior lightweight titleholder by edging past defending IBF champion Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov by 12-round split decision in an excellent fight on Saturday at the Cardiff International Arena in Cardiff, Wales.

Cordina (16-0, 9 knockouts), The Ring’s No. 5-rated junior lightweight, won by scores of 115-112 and 114-113, while the other judge had it 116-111 for Rakhimov (17-1-1, 14 KOs), who entered the contest as The Ring’s No. 4-rated 130-pounder.

The 31-year-old Welshman boxed well off the back foot while Rakhimov looked to press and attack the body in the opening round. The action heated up in the second, with both men planting their feet. It was Cordina who drew first blood, dropping Rakhimov with a left hook to the body with a minute to go in the round. Cordina looked to close the show, but credit to Rakhimov for responding well with some of his own shots.

Rakhimov, 28, was determined not to let his title go easily, and in Rounds 3 and 4 he outworked Cordina, who was looking for that one shot to end matters.

Things ramped up in the fifth when Rakhimov’s body work hurt Cordina, who had to cover up and hold on two occasions.

This time it was Cordina’s turn to come back and put it on Rakhimov in the sixth round. Again, the round turned and Rakhimov’s pressure caused Cordina some concern. 

Cordina appeared to get his second wind in the seventh and looked the fresher of the two, again boxing well on the back foot and picking Rakhimov to pieces on the outside. The Tajikistan-born fighter, who is his country’s first world champion, was showing damage to his left eye, which was nearly swollen shut.

Cordina lands an uppercut. (Photo via Twitter @MatchroomBoxing)

The tide was firmly in Cordina’s favor over the next couple of rounds. He landed the cleaner work but was getting outworked by Rakhimov at times. 

Entering the championship rounds, Cordina, was cheered on by a loud home crowd and looked to be ahead, but Rakhimov continued to barrel forward and land head and body shots. The two went after each other in an exciting 12th round.

At the end, Cordina looked like he’d done enough for victory, though one of the judges had it surprisingly wide for Rakhimov. All told, Cordina boxed well and was a deserved winner. 

The scorecards:

(Photo via Twitter @MatchroomBoxing)

In the post-fight interview, Cordina asked his promoter, Eddie Hearn, for a unification, which Hearn said he would do his best to secure for The Cardiff City Stadium, home of Cordina’s favorite soccer team, something he has long wanted to achieve. Hearn was less receptive when Cordina asked for a Rolex, but he reluctantly agreed.

Cordina seems to be a genuine draw in Cardiff and can look forward to further to big nights as he spearheads boxing in Wales.

In the co-feature, Sandy Ryan (6-1, 2 KOs) had too much for Marie-Pier Houle (8-1-1, 2 KOs) and claimed the vacant WBO welterweight title by 10-round unanimous decision.

The 29-year-old Brit boxed well from the outset and continually pushed her previously unbeaten Canadian opponent back. Credit to Houle, who showed heart and a good chin.

When David Diamante read out the scorecards, there was no doubt who the winner was. Ryan won a wide decision: 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93.

Gavin Gwynne (16-2-1, 4 KOs) earned local bragging rights by stopping fellow Welshman Craig Woodruff (12-7-1, 4 KOs) in five rounds to retain his British lightweight title.

From the opening bell, Gwynne, who was making the third defense of the title he won last April, pressed forward and backed Woodruff up. Gwynne was too strong and had Woodruff fighting off the ropes for much of the contest until he finally overwhelmed him at 2:02 of Round 5. Referee Michael Alexander decided Woodruff had taken enough and called a halt to proceedings. 

The two had met last September and fought to a 12-round draw. This time, Gwynne upped his game and proved too good.

In junior lightweight action, Zelfa Barrett (29-2, 16 KOs) returned from losing to Rakhimov for the vacant title last year by beating a game Jason Sanchez (16-4, 9 KOs) by 12-round unanimous decision.

Barrett controlled the action and was too slick for the American, repeatedly beating him to the punch. Sanchez fought with spirit and had to get off the canvas in Round 5. 

Barrett was awarded the decision by scores of 116-111, 118-110 and 119-108. Afterward, Barrett said he’d like to face the winner of the main event.



Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov and Joe Cordina make weight for junior lightweight title contest – The Ring (

Joe Cordina aims to recover his old belt against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in Wales – The Ring (

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].