Joe Cordina sent shockwaves through the super-featherweight division last night with a huge, highlight-reel knockout of Kenichi Ogowa in the second round at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena, picking up the IBF 130lb strap in the process.
The Welshman entered the ring on the night a slight underdog but settled quickly in the first round as he looked to establish his jab and assert his authority on the champion. Ogowa enjoyed success with a solid left-hook towards the end of the round however, a timely reminder of the power he possesses after winning eighteen of his twenty-six victories inside the distance. The second saw more use of the jab from Cordina while the Tokyo man looked to push the challenger back with a lead hand of his own. With just a minute gone, the two men found themselves in the centre of the ring when the thirty-year-old Cordina bent his knees as if to paw out a jab to the Japanese’s body before instead sending a rocketing straight-right down the centre. The punch met the chin of Ogowa with astonishing accuracy and left the champion flat on his back, the shot bearing an eery resemblance to Canelo Alvarez‘s knockout of Amir Khan back in 2016. Referee Michael Alexander began to administer the count as Ogowa attempted to regain his footing before stumbling again and falling over on to his back again. Alexander waved it off and the crowd at the Motorpoint Arena erupted as they watched the thirteenth world champion of Wales being crowned in front of them.
Cordina’s Rio 2016 teammate Joshua Buatsi, who was on commentary for broadcaster DAZN, immediately climbed to the ropes and embraced his friend, while trainer Tony Sims and promoter Eddie Hearn soon joined in the celebrations. Ogowa was administered oxygen by the ringside medical officials but looked to be okay, if not a little shaken by the punch that had been detonated on his chin just moments earlier. Cardiff’s last world champion, also at 130lbs, in Barry Jones was also ringside on radio duty and he was next to congratulate the latest Welsh hero among a cacophony of noise produced by the Welsh fans. WBC and WBO super-featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson paid his respect to Cordina on Twitter, saying “Told y’all he the best fighter @ 130 from England…I would love to come to England for some smoke tho champ, congrats“.
Promoter Hearn revealed shortly after the fight that mandatory challenger for the IBF Shavkat Rakhimov had been paid step-aside money, unbeknown to Cordina, to allow the Welshman to challenge Ogowa on Saturday night and that the Tajikistan man may well be the newly crowned champion’s first defence. One thing that is not in doubt is the phenomenal finish to a fight that was dubbed 50/50 at best for Cordina beforehand, only for the ‘Welsh Wizard’ to produce a blistering contender for knockout of the year, in front of his home fans, in his first world title challenge, and in just the second round.
Saturday’s card in Cardiff proved a great night for British super-featherweights as Zelfa Barrett picked up the EBU 130lb strap versus Faroukh Kourbanov in a dominating twelve-round performance. Barrett’s boxing was sublime all night, showing great patience and shot selection to comprehensively outbox a tricky Kourbanov, the judges adjudging Barrett a comfortable winner by scores of 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 respectively. On the first anniversary of his mother’s passing, Barrett produced the performance of his career as he too now looks for world honours and is ranked second with the IBF whose belt Cordina secured in the main event.
Further down the card, one of the rising stars in British boxing Dalton Smith moved to 10-0-0 as a professional with a brutal six-round demolition of Mauro Perouene, the latter retiring at the end of the sixth after taking a beating from the Sheffield man. Smith now looks for a shot at the British title at super-lightweight in his next fight as the twenty-five-year-old continues his rapid assent at 140lbs. Skye Nicolson completed her fourth outing in just ninety-one days with a comfortable eight-round display against Gabriela Bouvier, while Gamal Yafai returned for the first time in a year with a fourth-round stoppage of Liverpool’s Sean Cairns. Calum French will have no doubt taken a lot from his hard-fought eight-round victory over Gadatamen Taylor in just his third professional fight at 140lbs, and welterweight Joe Morgan cruised to 4-0-0 with a four-round victory over Rustem Fatkhullin.
Sticking with the 147lbs division, Ben Crocker secured his fourth pro victory in as many fights with a whitewash of Evgenii Vazem over four rounds, while Monique Bux‘s professional debut didn’t quite go to plan as she suffered a four-round points defeat to Ester Konecna. Kyran Jones had Vasif Mamedov on the canvas in the second as he moved to a comfortable four-round victory in his fourth pro fight at middleweight.