Standout performance of the weekend goes to Joe Cordina who regained the IBF ‘world’ title at 130lbs (9st, 4lbs) with a hard fought split points decision (114-113, 115-112, 111-116) over previously undefeated Shavkat Rakhimov of former Soviet state Tajikistan.
Welshman Cordina (16-0, 9 KO’s), had previously been stripped of the title he’d won last June due to sustaining a hand injury post-fight. Rakhimov (17-1-1, 14 KO’s) subsequently picked up the vacant title to then lose it in is first defence on Saturday to the original (and rightful) title holder.
Shown live on the DAZN streaming site the contest was an early contender for fight of the year. Held in a a packed and vocal Cardiff International Arena, the fight was toe to toe for the full twelve rounds.
Cordina dropped his opponent in the second round thereafter the Tajikistan southpaw spent the rest of the fight coming forward to the slick Welsh boxer. On our card the fight was finally sealed with a strong final round from Cordina.
This was a standout victory for the Welshman and the promise he showed coming out of the 2016 Rio Olympics has now been fufilled both at domestic and world level. He looks all set to equal the popularity and achievement of his compatriot and boxing hall-of-famer Joe Calzaghe if he continues on this trajectory. Calzaghe was supporting at ringside, and knowing him, nothing will delight him more than further Welsh fistic success.
Elsewhere, the main headline was in Las Vegas, USA in the big ‘lightweight’ fight (albeit at 136lbs, slightly over the divisional limit) . Three division ‘world’ champion Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis dropped and eventually knocked out Ryan Garcia before a 19,000 star studded crowd at the T-Mobile Arena. Broadcast on Showtime pay-per-view in the US this was big business.
It was another contest between previously undefeated fighters and although it was always interesting, failed to deliver on its pre-fight build up and hype. Both fighters exchanged months of verbal barracking, and leading in, it was viewed as a contest the sport needed to deliver and ultimately crown a new ‘young’ king.
Garcia won the first round and Davis known as a notoriously slow starter just bided his time. The tall and rangy Latino-American was then dropped in the second round from a left hook and, although managed to rise and compete in the following rounds, the die was cast.
Davis edged all the subsequent rounds with the exception of the sixth, a clear Garcia round. The compactness and power-punching of Davis eventually won the day as he had accurately predicted pre-fight.
Midway through the seventh round with the fighters coming out of a clinch the Baltimore southpaw landed a straight left cum hook just under Garcia’s chest. The results of the impact had a 3-5 second delay and Garcia in retreat dropped to one knee. In distress and gasping for breath within, he was eventually counted out after 1:44 of the round.
Davis’ record rose to 29-0 (27 KO’s) with Garcia falling to 23-1 (19 KO’s). At ages 28 and 24 respectively, both will come again. Post-fight Garcia was magnanimous in defeat admitting he’d been caught by a “good shot” and acknowledging the “better man”. He later announced he would campaign at 10st (140lbs), possibly resulting in him closing in on recognised #1 Josh Taylor.
Davis’ star continues to rise and big further big fights now await anywhere from 135 to 147 pounds.
At lightweight, all eyes now switch to Devin Haney versus Vasiliy Lomachenko on May 20 and the continued rise of Americans Shakur Stevenson and Keyshawn Davis. All potential Gervonta Davis opponents.