On Saturday, Joe Cordina (15-0, 9 KOs) captured the IBF super-featherweight title with a stunning second round knockout of Kenichi Ogawa, at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff.
The Japanese champion represented a significant step up in class for the ‘Welsh Wizard’, but it was one Cordina handled with ease.
The fight was perceived to be a pick ‘em by many, with the general perception being that the fight would either be won as a result of Ogawa’s pressure and power or Cordina’s slick boxing. The Welshman flipped the script and produced a Knockout of The Year contender.
The fight-ending punch was almost a carbon copy of the shot the 30-year-old used to knockout Joshuah Hernandez, last August.
Now that the 2016 Rio Olympian has added concussive power to his skillset, he has the opportunity to establish himself as the best in the world at 130lbs.
Here are five fighters Cordina could face next:
Shakur Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs)
Let’s start with the big one. The 2016 Rio Olympic bantamweight silver medallist was the first name given by Cordina’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, when asked what was next for his charge.
Stevenson took to Twitter in the immediate aftermath to make it abundantly clear he was keen on the fight, stating: “Told y’all he the best fighter at @ 130 from England…I would love to come to England for some [smoke emoji] tho champ congrats @JoeCordina_91”
Told y’all he the best fighter @ 130 from England.. I would love to come to England for some 💨 tho champ congrats @JoeCordina_91
— Shakur Stevenson (@ShakurStevenson) June 4, 2022
Geography clearly is not Stevenson’s strong suit, thankfully, boxing is. Later in the exchange with the new champion, Stevenson expressed his belief that a clash between the pair is the best bout that can be made at the weight. He is not wrong.
Two-weight world champion, Stevenson, has looked better than ever since moving up to super-featherweight, capturing the WBO and WBC titles against Jamel Herring and Oscar Valez, respectively and has his eyes set on becoming the undisputed champion at 130lbs. However, there is a reason why so few fighters have achieved that feat in the four-belt era – politics.
Stevenson’s promoter, Bob Arum, and Eddie Hearn do not have the best working relationship and the fighters are contacted to different broadcast platforms. It is not out of the question that a deal could be struck, but it is likely that the negotiations would be a protracted process.
Given Arum’s love of allowing fights to “marinate” it is possible he would rather Cordina’s profile was raised with a defence or two first. Let’s file this one under “unlikely”.
Roger Gutierrez (26-3-1, 20 KOs)
The WBA super-featherweight champion is a more realistic unification option for Cordina. The Venezuelan had been scheduled to make a mandatory defence against Chris Colbert back in February. Gutierrez is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, while Colbert fights under the Premier Boxing Champions banner.
Historically, those two outfits tend not to work together, but a deal was agreed to stage the bout on a PBC card, without the need for purse bids. The fact that terms were reached should be encouraging for the Welshman as it confirms that Golden Boy would allow their fighter to box on a rival promoter’s show – albeit for a hefty price.
Both Matchroom and Golden Boy have broadcast deals with DAZN which should help to facilitate the fight. Before we all get too optimistic, there is a significant stumbling block which could prevent a clash between the champions. The bout against Colbert did not come to fruition as Gutierrez tested positive for Covid-19.
Hector Luis Garcia stepped in to replace the champion at short notice. Garcia was unbeaten, but untested and Colbert was expected to prevail. However, the late replacement pulled off the upset, winning by unanimous decision.
Gutierrez is now set to defend his title against Garcia, on July 15, in Venezuela. It is not a straightforward defence for Gutierrez, but if the champion retains his title, then a unification is not out of the question.
Zelfa Barrett (28-1, 16 KOs)
On the undercard of Cordina’s title triumph, Barrett produced a career-best performance to comfortably outboxing Faroukh Kourbanov to win the European super-featherweight belt. The Mancunian’s position as chief support on the bill was no coincidence; Barrett is currently ranked No. 2 with the IBF and handled Kourbanov with greater ease than the Welshman did last year.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Fighter A beat Fighter B more comfortably than Fighter C, therefor Fighter A will beat Fighter C, but It is a tried and tested way to build hype for a future clash. For all the talk of unifications, let’s be honest, it will be the ‘Brown Flash’ that Cordina will face in his first defence, and that is OK.
It has often appeared that the whole has been less than the sum of its parts when it comes to Barrett, he can do everything, just not consistently. On Saturday night, that was not the case as the 28-year-old turned in his most complete showing to date. The fact that he achieved that feat on the first anniversary of his mother’s death is simply astonishing. Few would begrudge Barrett his chance, and as first defences go, it could be a lot worse.
Brock Jarvis (20-0, 18 KOs)
If it were not for the fact that Barrett will almost certainly land the assignment, Jarvis would be the favourite to face Cordina next. The Australian ticks a lot of boxes for a first defence: he has a nice record (as long as you do not scrutinise the names he has faced too closely), he is trained by three-weight world champion Jeff Fenech (who’s achievements would be used to market the fight), he is promoted by Matchroom, is ranked in the top 10 by the IBF and Cordina would be a big favourite.
Jarvis made his U.S. debut in his last bout, on the undercard of Mikey Garcia’s shock defeat to Sandor Martin. The fight almost ended in disaster for Jarvis as his opponent, Alejandro Frias Rodriguez, had him badly hurt in the second round. The Australian displayed good resilience to survive the frame and went on to halt his opponent in the fifth round.
While Jarvis may not get his chance next, it would not be a surprise if he were to fight Cordina at some point during the Welshman’s run a 130lbs.
Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (16-0-1, 13 KOs)
Of course, it is entirely possible that the IBF may take the choice out of the hands of Cordina’s team by ordering a mandatory defence against the California-based Tajikistani. Rakhimov challenged for the belt against Joseph Diaz last year. The title was only at stake for Rakhimov, as the American had been stripped of the strap after weighing in three-and-a-half pounds over the divisional limit.
The challenger came close to capturing the title, but had to settle for a majority draw. The sanctioning body then presented Rakhimov with a second opportunity as they put him forward to challenge for the vacant title against Kenichi Ogawa.
Rakhimov was forced to withdraw from the scheduled bout due to injury and the Japanese defeated Azinga Fuzile to become champion. The 27-year-old is currently the highest ranked contender in the IBF ratings and will be called to face Cordina at some stage.
Rakhimov’s mandatory status is controversial as the legitimacy of his win over Fuzile to earn that position is heavily disputed. Rakhimov halted the South African in the eighth round of their 2019 encounter while behind on the scorecards.
However, between rounds seven and eight, the Tajikistani fighter was seen inhaling from a bottle of what is believed to have been smelling salts, which is prohibited. The controversy increased after the fight as a stash of drugs (think Lance Armstrong, not Whitney Houston) and paraphernalia were found in Rakhimov’s hotel room.
His then-manager, Aleksey Titov claimed that the banned substances belonged to him and not his fighter. Apparently, Titov used the pharmaceuticals to recover from the flu in preparation for an upcoming marathon. As excuses go, it ranks somewhere between wild boar and contaminated semen.