Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov was undefeated and had knocked out six of his seven prior opponents when he entered the ring to fight Joe Cordina on April 22.
Cordina violently knocked out Japan’s Kenichi Igawa in the second round of the bout before he boxed Rakhimov, but the unbeaten Welshman needed to conquer Rakhimov to regain the IBF 130-pound championship that Cordina never lost in the ring. Tajikistan’s Rakhimov (17-1-1, 14 KOs) was supposed to challenge Cordina five months earlier in Dubai, but Cordina’s hand injury caused a postponement and enabled Rakhimov to defeat England’s Zelfa Barrett by ninth-round technical knockout to win a then-vacant IBF belt.
Cardiff’s Cordina dropped Rakhimov in the second round and dug deep later in their 12-round battle to win a split decision six months ago at Utilita Arena Cardiff. Judges Phil Edwards (114-113) and Pawel Kardyni (115-112) scored their dog fight for Cordina, who lost 116-111 according to judge Alex Levin.
Cordina (16-0, 9 KOs) – who will defend his title against American underdog Edward Vazquez on Saturday night in Monte Carlo, Monaco – explained during a promotional segment posted recently to Matchroom Boxing’s YouTube channel why he was completely confident that he would win back the IBF junior lightweight title by beating the hard-hitting Rakhimov.
“And then you come back from an injury, I didn’t want a warmup fight,” Cordina said. “I said, ‘Put me straight in against Rakhimov,’ who’s – he’s a killer. He was going out just smashing everyone, stopping everyone. Relentless, comes forward, tough as they come. You gotta be more than just tough and strong and fit to beat me. You have to have something special, and I just knew he didn’t have it.”
The 31-year-old Cordina was more than a 2-1 favorite over Rakhimov, but he is more heavily favored versus Vazquez (-1200/+750).
Vazquez (15-1, 3 KOs), of Fort Worth, Texas, is the IBF’s ninth-ranked contender for Cordina’s crown. The 28-year-old challenger has lost only a 10-round split decision to undefeated contender Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs) in February 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix.
“He’s got everything to gain, nothing to lose, so he’s gonna come out and give it everything,” Cordina said. “But so am I. … I completely out-box him and make it look easy, or I knock him out.”
DAZN will stream Cordina-Vazquez as a main event worldwide from Casino de Monte Carlo. The streaming service’s undercard coverage is scheduled to begin Saturday at 8 p.m. BST in the United Kingdom and 3 p.m. EDT in the United States.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.