There is entirely too much riding on Joe Cordina’s first defense of the IBF junior lightweight title for him to not have prepared for it very seriously.

The unbeaten Welshman can secure a title unification fight with WBC champ O’Shaquie Foster if he defeats Edward Vazquez on Saturday night in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Cardiff’s Cordina (16-0, 9 KOs) is a 14-1 favorite according to DraftKings sportsbook, but he views Vazquez (15-1, 3 KOs) as a true threat to end his second championship reign as quickly as it started.

“He’s a good fighter,” Cordina said during a press conference Thursday in Monte Carlo. “I’ve never once disrespected him. I’m taking this very seriously. Don’t worry. Like I seen an interview he said that he thinks I’m taking him lightly. Trust me, I’ve never took a journeyman lightly, never mind a world title fight.

“This is a fight that potentially gonna set up my future and my kids’ future. I’ve got three kids to look after, so every time it gets tough I think of my kids. So yeah, he’s a very good fighter and I know he’s gonna put it all on the line. And I’m willing to do the same, too.”

The 28-year-old Vazquez, of Fort Worth, Texas, has lost only a controversial 10-round split decision to contender Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs) in February 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix. Vazquez is the ninth-ranked challenger for Cordina’s crown, but Cordina considers him a formidable foe.

“Listen, he’s gonna bring it,” Cordina said. “It’s a big opportunity for him, and he’s a good fighter. I’ve watched the fight against Ray Ford. I thought he probably should’ve had it, so yeah, he’s gonna bring the game. He’s gonna bring the heat. But I’m ready to match whatever he brings.”

The 31-year-old Cordina edged Tajikistan’s Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (17-1-1, 14 KOs) by split decision in a 12-round dog fight April 22 to win back the IBF 130-pound championship at Utilita Arena Cardiff. Cordina dropped Rakhimov in the second round of that bout, the same round in which he spectacularly knocked out Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa (28-2-1, 19 KOs) in June 2022 at Utilita Arena Cardiff.

The IBF stripped Cordina between the two biggest wins of his career because the 2016 Olympian suffered a hand injury that caused the postponement of his mandated defense versus Rakhimov. Rakhimov, a southpaw who was unbeaten before Cordina defeated him, instead stopped Cordina’s replacement, England’s Zelfa Barrett (29-2, 16 KOs), in the ninth round last November 5 in Abu Dhabi to take the IBF’s then-unclaimed championship.

Cordina contended that he has silenced skeptics with his impressive back-to-back victories over Ogawa and Rakhimov.

“No one said I had power, and then I knocked out Ogawa,” Cordina said. “Then they said, ‘Oh, he can only look pretty. He can only do this.’ Then I show I can dig down [against Rakhimov]. Now, if you come into the gym and see how I train and how I spar and everything else, I do that on a daily [basis]. But that’s the only fight in my pro career that I’ve had to get out of first gear, is that Rakhimov fight. So, yeah, and like [Vazquez] said, me saying you gotta be special to beat me, he’s saying I’m cocky. It’s not cocky. It’s the only thing is I believe in my ability.

“And I’ve done it time after time as a pro. And I’ve done it all through my amateur career, 180 amateur fights. My man sitting next to me to my right, I’ve known him since 2009 – Souleymane Cissokho – we’ve been all around the world together. And I’ve beat some great, great fighters, and people that has won Olympic medals, world medals. I know that it’s pro boxing, but it ain’t a fluke. It’s not a fluke. I am the real deal and I believe in my ability. And that’s all it is, really.”

DAZN will stream Cordina-Vazquez as the main event of a show scheduled to begin 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 He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.