Eddie Hearn has already mapped out a plan for Joe Cordina to regain his title.
The chairman of Matchroom Boxing immediately came to grips with the IBF stripping Cordina of the junior lightweight title. The unbeaten Welshman was due to defend against mandatory challenger Shavkat Rakhimov on a November 5 DAZN show in Abu Dhabi, only to suffer a broken left hand requiring surgery.
The recovery process will leave Cardiff’s Cordina (15-0, 9KOs) out of the ring until at least next spring, pushing well past the acceptable deadline by the IBF to honor the outstanding mandatory challenge. The IBF has ordered a vacant title fight between Tajikistan’s Rakhimov (16-0-1, 13KOs) and Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett (28-1, 16KOs), which Matchroom hopes to stage on the Abu Dhabi card and with Cordina waiting in the wings.
“Brutally for Joe Cordina, I think it was his first spar of his camp he broke his hand,” Hearn noted during an in-house interview posted on the Matchroom Boxing YouTube channel. “He’s going to be out additionally for another six months. Unfortunately, that was the ruling based on him challenging for the world championship. So now he’s stripped of his championship.
“Rakhimov will get his chance. It will actually be (against) Zelfa Barrett, who is number two in the rankings. We’re looking to make that for the Abu Dhabi show. Joe Cordina will fight the winner of that fight. We’re going to make sure he will be reinstated as number-one with the IBF. Zelfa Barrett is more than up for fighting Joe Cordina, as is Rakhimov. The plan will be Barrett versus Rakhimov in Abu Dhabi, with the winner fighting Joe Cordina.”
Cordina claimed the IBF junior lightweight title after dethroning Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa in a sensational second-round knockout. The career-best win took place on June 4 in Cordina’s Cardiff hometown, the opportunity coming at the expense of Rakhimov who was owed the title shot as the overdue mandatory challenger.
The IBF initially denied the request filed by Matchroom to stage Ogawa-Cordina, but reluctantly softened its stance on the condition that the winner face Rakhimov by no later than September 2. Cordina—who represented Great Britain as a lightweight in the 2016 Rio Olympics—suffered an injury while casually training a few weeks after his title win, which forced him to file a 60-day exemption for his mandatory title defense.
Cordina’s luck continued to go south, breaking his hand during a training session. Matchroom informed the IBF, though with the understanding that bad news would come with the sanctioning body’s eventual reply.
“Unfortunately, [Cordina] picked up an injury post-Ogawa fight, just training and it required a little rest,” noted Hearn. “We went to the IBF, we went to Rakhimov and managed to get that period extended to November on the Abu Dhabi event. Again, with the understanding that this is it. You had your exemption; you had your extension.
“Horrendous luck for Joe. People talk about Interim championships and champions in recess. Unfortunately, the way this played out with the previous exemptions, the IBF had little choice. To reinstate (Cordina) as the number one and to make sure he gets that immediate shot back at the world championship is absolute priority for us. You’re going to Rakhimov-Barrett in November, then you’re going to see Joe against the winner in late spring, early summer (of 2023).”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox