Joe Cordina controversially lost his title at the end of 2022 when he pulled out of his mandatory defence against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov due to injury.
It was a hasty decision and met with plenty of criticism but the IBF are known to be strict and we saw the most recent example of that with Jai Opetaia.
Rakhimov would go on to come from behind on the cards to stop Zelfa Barrett in Abu Dhabi and be ordered to face Cordina next.
A packed-out Cardiff Arena still had Cordina’s brutal knockout of Kenichi Ogawa in the back of their minds, and the Welsh Wizard gave them another night they’ll never forget.
In round two, Rakhimov backed Cordina up and the Brit was countering Rakhimov for the first 30 seconds or so. The pair then met in the middle of the ring, both having success at punching range, Cordina notably with the right uppercut and Rakhimov with his left hand to the body.
With around a minute to go, Cordina dropped Rakhimov with a brilliant 1-2-3 combination with the left hook doing all the damage. Rakhimov rose to his feet and would go on to fight fire with fire and trade with Cordina for the remainder of the round.
Rakhimov had his best moment in the fight in round five where a right hook wobbles Cordina and forces him to hold on and cover up on the ropes.
Cordina caught a second wind in the seventh and had another strong round as Rakhimov’s eyes began to close from a cut and the Welshman would aim his backhand on the left eye.
Rakhimov slowed down slightly allowing the Welshman to build up a strong lead in rounds 7, 8 and 9 and put him well in front heading into the championship rounds.
Joe Cordina won a 114-113, 115-112, 111-116 split decision over the man from Tajikistan to regain his world title.
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Images: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing