THEY say to look out for the quiet ones; the silent types; the dark horses. Yet nobody – nobody – could have foreseen Wales’ Joe Cordina, a man whose professional career has so far been more a whisper than a shout, exploding on to the world stage with a stunning one-punch, second-round knockout in his first shot at a version of the ‘world’ title.
That, however, is exactly what happened in Cardiff this evening (June 4) once the talented 30-year-old measured IBF super-featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa for the finest right hand he has ever thrown as a pro. It was a shot, when executed, his Japanese opponent not only never saw coming but one we, too, those watching at home, would have struggled to see coming, either.
For Cordina had, despite his undeniable talent, to date shown no signs of possessing that kind of shot, nor indeed delivering this kind of performance when it mattered. His career, in fact, has been something of a slow-burner to this point, one comprising plenty of fights he was expected to win and plenty of fights he has won with unused gears and much in reserve. Therefore, to then go on to excel on the biggest night of his career and showcase both already established facets and new ones – one-punch power, world-class finishing ability – is quite the accomplishment; the stuff of dreams really.
Going in, the assumption tonight was that, whatever the result, the fight would be a long one and competitive to boot. Given the home advantage, a lot of people sided with Cordina to get the job done, but only ever on points and only after knowing he had been in a fight. Meanwhile, there were just as many who were backing Ogawa, believing his edge in experience and, yes, punch power would ultimately be key to separating the two on the night.
In the end, though, it was the result nobody saw coming that landed Cordina, now 15-0 (9), the IBF super-featherweight title. It was as out-of-the-blue and sudden as his career has been cautious and obvious; it was, perhaps, a punch and performance he had been saving, just waiting for the right time to unleash it. And unleash it he did. Just one minute and 15 seconds into the second round, having shared a fairly even first, Cordina detected his opponent’s propensity to get a little heavy on his front foot and, before he could make his next move, chopped him down with as good a right hand as any fighter has thrown this year.
So vicious was the punch – its execution, its result – there was no need for even a count. It simply left the 34-year-old Ogawa on his back, crawling to regain both his senses and his footing, and it left Cordina, the shot’s architect, wheeling away with the conviction of someone who knew there was, that night, no more fighting left to do.
He was right, too. The fight was over, the title had exchanged hands, and the reaction to the shot, both from Cordina and his team, was rightfully jubilant. They knew, just as we knew, that as far as breakout performances go few have been as stunning or indeed as impressive as the one Cordina produced this evening. It was a performance he needed, no doubt, especially given the frustratingly lowkey nature of his career so far, and it was one, like the very best fighters, he delivered when it mattered.
For Ogawa, on the other hand, he drops to 26-2-1 (18), and loses the title he won last November when outpointing Azinga Fuzile. In truth, he never really got going in this, his first defence, which will make the manner of defeat as painful as it can get, while, at 34, it could be true that his best days are behind him. Cordina, though, will hardly care. He took his opportunity when the opportunity presented itself and, if Ogawa happened to lose his title in the worst way possible, Cordina, the new champion, happened to win it in the best way possible.