Joe Cordina is a two-time IBF super-featherweight champion after he beat Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in a fight-of-the-year candidate on Saturday.
The two men both entered the fight undefeated, as Cordina briefly held the title last year but had to give it up due to injury. The vacant belt was then won by Rakhimov last November, setting up Saturday’s match as the decider of the true champion, and it lived up to its billing.
In a bout that seemed to be fought at 100 miles per hour in the opening few rounds, there was very little to separate the fighters. Champion and challenger presented distinct-yet-potent styles as they tried to gain the upper hand, but neither would be on top for too long.
Rakhimov’s aggressive, high-work rate style allowed the champion to move his opponent around the ring and land many rapid shots, but Cordina’s defensive stance and methodical approach led to some fine counterattacking boxing by the challenger, and the men traded rounds throughout the contest.
Rakhimov shook off a knockdown in the fifth round and a cut over his left eye that got increasingly worse as the fight wore on, continuing his aggressive style as he looked to overwhelm Cordina. However, the Welshman was prepared and his patience paid off with a number of devastating punches whenever he saw an opening.
Their clashing styles pushed the fight to the distance, with neither man giving an inch through to the final bell. Ultimately, the scorecards favoured the hometown hero as Cardiff-born Cordina had his hand raised following a split decision from the judges.
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