Joe Cordina sealed his status as a two-time super-featherweight champion after 12 gruelling rounds against IBF king Shavkat Rakhimov in Cardiff.
The Welshman got his hand raised by split-decision after two judges ruled him winner by 115-112 and 114-113 respectively, while the third peculiarly scored the fight for Rakhimov by 116-111.
Cordina started fast, flooring the champion in the second with a well-timed left hook.
Rakhimov dug in and survived the round but was no doubt rocket by the shot as Cordina looked to close the show early.
Tajikistan’s Rakhimov refused to budge however and rallied to rock Cordina in the fifth with a pulverising right hand which stiffened the legs of the Briton.
Cordina, like Rakhimov had done three rounds prior, survived the scare and responded well with accurate rights of his own in the following two rounds.
Rakhimov came on strong as the final third of the fight approached, pushing Cordina back, showing incredible heart and defiance in seek of his first successful title defence.
The championship rounds saw another surge from the Welshman however as Cordina landed flurries of right uppercuts to the robust chin of Rakhimov.
Both men looked to empty the tanks in the final stanza but it was Cordina who was the more accurate from range as he closed the show home in front of a raucous Cardiff crowd.
Cordina said post-fight: “He’s a tough fighter, but as the people in my gym know, I’m a hard motherfucker. I felt like no one could beat me on this night.”
The 31-year-old re-claimed the IBF 130lb title that he was stripped of in October after a serious hand injury meant he was unable to defend against Rakhimov, and promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed the plan is now to secure unification bouts at a stadium in the Welsh capital.
Sandy Ryan also claimed world honours on the night as she comprehensively outpointed Marie Pier Houle over ten rounds to claim the vacant WBO welterweight title.
Derby’s Ryan produced the cleaner work on the night against the tough Canadian, setting up a potential undisputed showdown against American Jessica McCaskill.
Hearn confirmed that the fight has been agreed between both sides but McCaskill must first overcome Ivana Habazin in the summer.
Ryan, who avenged her sole pro defeat against Erica Farias last year, is now world champion in just her seventh fight.
Further down the card, Manchester super-featherweight Zelfa Barrett floored Jason Sanchez before eventually outpointing the American via unanimous decision.
The fight was Barrett’s first since his defeat to Rakhimov for the IBF crown in November.
Gavin Gwynne also defended his British lightweight title with a fifth-round stoppage of Craig Woodruff, while Jordan Thompson forced a sixth-round stoppage of Luke Watkins at cruiserweight.
Featherweight Skye Nicolson won all eight rounds against Linda Lecca, while Brandon Scott impressed with a comfortable four-round points win against Reynaldo Cajina at super-featherweight.
Featured image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.