JOE CORDINA ripped back his IBF super-featherweight world title with a thrilling split decision win over Shavkat Rakhimov.
The 31-year-old Welshman won the red and gold belt with a sensational knockout last June but – when it was revealed he needed surgery on a hand later broken in sparring for his first defence – he was stripped in October.
Undeterred and undefeated, he got a second crack at the crown in his home city of Cardiff and regained his belt with a perfect blend of skill and savagery, taking it with cards of 111-116, 115-112 & 114-113.
Cordina’s hands were fast and accurate and his front-foot pivot was slick, Rakhimov – the 28-year-old from Tajikistan – piled forward hurling body punches.
The southpaw champion landed regularly with his heavy left hand but Cordina was happy to trade with him in the second.
And then a left hook dropped Rakhimov but he stunned the crowd by beating the count and surviving the round.
Rakhimov’s left eye was a bloody and bruised mess by the end of the sixth, following a string of right hands from the orthodox Brit.
Cordina – for so long regarded a Welsh wizard best at using his long wands from distance – was like a Mexican gunslinger throwing bombs in the pocket in the seventh.
The scarred right hand – that has now been rebuilt with two operations – landed again in the eighth and buzzed the wilting visitor.
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It was nip-and-ruck in the championship rounds as Cordina tried to box and Rakhimov kept brawling, with almost equal success.
But it was the hometown hero showboating and celebrating in the final sessions as he expected his second coronation.