Joe Cordina (17-0, 9 KO’s) retained his IBF super featherweight title with a majority decision over Edward Vazquez in Monte Carlo.
Cordina initially won the title in June 2022 with a sensational one punch knockout of Kenichi Ogawa before being harshly stripped after suffering a hand injury. He regained the title in April by outfighting Shavkat Rakhimov in an all out war.
Taking the center of the ring from the off, Cordina looked much bigger than the compact Texan and the Welshman found his range straight away, whipping in some slashing lefts to the body. Once or twice Vazquez looked like he may have felt the weight of a couple of shots but if he had, the power didn’t dissuade him too much. He charged out for the second round and set a relentless workmate. Cordina was more than happy to meet fire with fire. Vazquez landed a clean uppercut and a left hook and enjoyed some good moments.
Vazquez started the third with a right hand over a Cordina jab but the champion stayed in the center of the ring, looking to use his front foot and straight shots to keep a little more distance between the two. It suddenly became much more difficult for Vazquez to initiate exchanges.
Cordina was also finding a home for his punches inside. Vazquez made an impressive start to the fourth, working inside and stepping around Cordina after letting his shots go but looked hurt by a right uppercut, left hook to the body combination. He was forced onto the defensive for 20 seconds but the resilient challenger regrouped and jumped straight back into the fray.
Vazquez was fighting well. Cordina was choosing to fight inside with him rather than attempting to use his natural physical advantages and Vazquez took advantage, landing plenty of short snappy shots. Cordina’s shots carried more power but he couldn’t put a significant dent in Vazquez’s confidence.
Cordina was a massive favourite beforehand but had suddenly found himself in a real fight. As if he had grown accustomed to the power, Vazquez seemed to feel comfortable staying in the pocket and the pair shared a couple of big exchanges, Cordina losing his mouthpiece at one point.
Cordina finally decided to put a little distance between the two int he seventh. Vazquez leapt in with his jab but by just employing a little movement, Cordina able to reestablish control of the fight.
The eighth and ninth were razor close. Vazquez was having to work harder for his opportunities now. Cleverly, he didn’t become ragged and reckless. Accepting that he need to be patient, he let sharp shooting Cordina have his moments and attacked with combinations when he could. The cleaner, heavier shots were coming from the man from Cardiff but Vazquez made the most of every opportunity. The fight had become a give and take battle - Cordina landing straight punches and often ending combinations with the left hook to the body and Vazquez landing short punches through and around the guard — but was increasingly taking place at Vazquez’s preferred range.
The tenth opened with some big exchanges. Every time it looked like Cordina had established his range with his jab and right hand, Vazquez would explode forward and land his own eye-catching shots, his left hook was a finding a home regularly but Cordina - looking marked up around the left eye - would have the first and final word in the exchanges.
Cordina attempted to employ more movement in the eleventh but that gave Vazquez room to rumble forward into. Cordina had his moments but Vazquez was able to land plenty of shots along the ropes, one huge left hook sent Cordina’s head spinning and as the two fighters answered the bell for the final round, it seemed like the fight was in the balance.
The twelfth round was fantastic. Vazquez attempted to grab the round by the scruff of the neck but Cordina responded well. Each man had spells where they looked like getting on top but every time, the other fighter would respond. Cordina rocked Vazquez’s head back with a jab and Vazquez would respond with short hooks and uppercuts. It was relentless, give and take action.
There was a nervous wait while the cards were collated.
Jeremy Hayes had the fight level at 114-114 but Deon Dwarte and Jean Robert Laine and both had the fight 116-112 in Cordina’s favorite.
Cordina retains his belt and will look for a unification fight.