Ten months on from blasting through Kenichi Ogowa to become the IBF super-featherweight champion, Joe Cordina (15-0-0, 9KOs) retains his role as challenger when he returns to the Welsh capital on Saturday.
This time, Tajikistan’s Shavkat Rakhimov (17-0-1, 14KOs) stands in the opposing corner, six months after he claimed the vacant IBF belt with a ninth-round stoppage of Zelfa Barrett in November.
Rakhimov was initially set to face the champion Cordina in Abu Dhabi that night before the Welshman was stripped of the belt after he was unable to defend due to a recurring hand injury.
Though frustrated and downbeat, promoter Eddie Hearn promised Cordina a shot at the winner as he now bids to become a two-time world champion at 130lbs.
Cordina has not fought since his stunning victory over Ogowa in June last year but was ringside to witness Rakhimov’s breakdown of Barrett and is confident he has what it takes to regain his belt this weekend.
“We’ve worked on a lot of things in this camp”, Cordina told BBTV.
“In the last fight [against Ogowa] there was one or two shots where we thought we could catch him comfortably. In this fight, there’s a few but you can wait to see that on Saturday.”
Rakhimov, like Cordina, is yet to taste defeat as a pro with the only blemish on his record being a majority decision draw to former world champion Joseph Diaz in 2021.
The 28-year-old has won 12 of his last 13 victories inside the distance, a streak he’s eager to continue this weekend with esteemed trainer Freddie Roach in his corner.
“He [Cordina] is a very good fighter. He comes to fight“, Roach told BBTV.
“I just think I have the bigger and stronger fighter in better condition and you will see that on Saturday.
“We’re gonna go right after him and take him out in the later rounds.”
The chief support sees another British fighter look to claim world honours as Derby’s Sandy Ryan (5-1-0, 2KOs) clashes with Canada’s Marie Pier Houle (8-0-1, 2KOs) for the vacant WBO welterweight title.
Ryan, who won Commonwealth gold as an amateur, steps in for his first world title fight in just her seventh pro outing.
The 29-year-old avenged her sole pro defeat with a rematch victory over Erica Farias in August.
Another comfortable ten-round decision followed in November before moving up from super-lightweight to contend for the WBO title at 147lbs this weekend.
Promoter Hearn confirmed to media that an undisputed showdown against America’s Jessica McCaskill providing Ryan gets her hand raised this weekend.
Pier Houle also steps in for her first world title challenge.
The 32-year-old has primarily fought in her native Canada and has won all but one of her nine contests – the exception being a majority draw over four rounds in 2019.
Elsewhere on the card, British lightweight champion Gavin Gwynne (15-2-1, 3KOs) rematches Craig Woodruff (12-6-1, 4KOs) in an all-Wales affair.
The pair fought to a close majority draw over 12 rounds in September last year.
Zelfa Barrett (28-2-0, 16KOs) also returns for the first time since his defeat to Rakhimov, taking on New Mexico’s Jason Sanchez (16-3-0, 9KOs) over 12 rounds at super-featherweight.
Manchester cruiserweight Jordan Thompson (14-0-0, 11KOs) also faces Luke Watkins (16-2-0, 11KOs) in a ten-round encounter, while Tokyo 2020 Olympian Skye Nicolson (6-0-0) returns at featherweight.
- SHAVKAT RAKHIMOV vs JOE CORDINA – IBF Super-Featherweight title (12 x 3)
- SANDY RYAN vs MARIE PIER HOULE – vacant WBO Welterweight title (10 x 2)
- GAVIN GWYNNE vs CRAIG WOODRUFF – British Lightweight title (12 x 3)
- JORDAN THOMPSON vs LUKE WATKINS – Cruiserweight (10 x 3)
- SKYE NICOLSON vs LINDA LAURE LECCA – Featherweight (8 x 2)
- SAMMY LEE vs JURIS ZUNDOVSKIS – Light-Heavyweight (6 x 3)
- BRANDON SCOTT vs REYNALDO CAJINA – Super-Featherweight (4 x 3)
- MILES GORDON-DARBY vs PHIL WILLIAMS – Heavyweight (4 x 3)
- NATHAN HOWELLS vs JAHFIEUS FAURE – Super-Featherweight (4 x3)
Featured image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.