Joe Cordina edged past Edward Vazquez with a majority decision in the first defense of his IBF world junior lightweight title on Saturday.
Cordina (17-0, 9 KOs), 31, from Cardiff in Wales, won by scores of 116-112, 116-112 and 114-114 after a close fight that Vazquez was convinced he should have won at the Casino de Monte Carlo Salle Medecin, Monte Carlo.
Vazquez (15-2, 3 KOs), 28, from Fort Worth, Texas, applied sustained pressure from start to finish and looked like he belonged at this level in what was his first world title attempt. Cordina only controlled the fight in brief periods behind his jab while Vazquez never took a backward step.
“He’s tricky and he’s clever,” Cordina said afterward. “I had to track him down and work him out. Going into the 10th, my trainer told me it was level. I didn’t box to my best, but I still think I did enough to win. There are no marks on my face, but there are marks on his.
“I didn’t perform to my best, and he couldn’t beat me on my worst night, and he’s a sore loser.”
Vazquez flicked his middle finger after he heard the judges’ scores and insisted he deserved to get the decision.
“I will be back,” he said. “Everyone watching around the world knows I won. [Matchroom promoter] Eddie Hearn knows I won.
“He wasn’t able to do what he wanted to, he had no power, he couldn’t land his right hand or left hook, and all the others at 130 pounds will walk through him.”
Up next for Cordina could be a fight against British rival Leigh Wood (28-3, 17 KOs), 35, who stopped Josh Warrington in defense of his WBA world featherweight title. Warrington is considering relinquishing his belt and stepping up a division and, along with Cordina, is promoted by Matchroom.
Mexican Emanuel Navarette, who defends his WBO junior lightweight title against Brazilian Robson Conceicao on Nov. 16, is ESPN’s No. 1 fighter in the division. He and American O’Shaquie Foster, the WBC titleholder, are other possibilities for Cordina.
A rematch with Vazquez seems unlikely despite the close decision, because other options are more lucrative.
Cordina won back the IBF belt in April with a split-decision win over Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov after being stripped of the belt due to injury following his stunning KO win over Kenichi Ogawa in June 2022.
This was Cordina’s third successive win in a world title fight, but he will have to improve upon this display if he wants to unify the belts at junior lightweight.
Cordina targeted the body from the opening bell and instead of boxing at range, opted to stay at close range and trade with Vazquez in the first two rounds.
Vazquez, who lost a split decision to Raymond Ford in February 2022, went toe-to-toe with Cordina in an entertaining second round.
Cordina opened up some distance in the third round, using his jab more and landing some hooks on the counter.
Cordina threaded a right uppercut through Vazquez’s guard, which caused the challenger’s legs to briefly sag, and then stepped up the pressure. But Cordina could not trouble Vazquez in the attack, and in the fifth the American was the busier fighter.
Vazquez was better when he was able to fight Cordina at close range, and at the halfway point the challenger was growing in confidence.
But Cordina responded with a commanding seventh round, boxing behind his jab and landing clusters of punches before retreating out of range. Cordina stayed in control in the seventh round, with a variety of punches repelling Vazquez.
Cordina’s jab was impressive in an entertaining tenth, but he also had to absorb a couple of hard left hooks from Vazquez.
Vazquez somehow managed to find enough energy to turn up the pressure in a barnstormer of a last round, as both slugged it out before raising their hands at the final bell.
Also on the card, Mexican Adrian Curiel produced a big upset when he knocked out South African Sivenathi Nontshinga in the second round to win the IBF world light flyweight title.
The right-hand finish that secured Curiel victory is a contender not only for KO of the Year but also biggest upset of the year, as Nontshinga’s reign ended in a second defense.
Curiel (24-4-1, 5 KOs), 24, from Mexico City, slipped a jab and then threw a perfect right hand that landed on Nontshinga’s temple. Curiel’s record does not suggest he is a KO artist but the shot was so powerful it left Nontshinga flat on his back and the count was quickly abandoned.
“This was a dream for me when I started boxing at six years of age,” Curiel said through an interpreter in the ring after stopping Nontshinga (12-1, 9 KOs), 24, from Eastern Cape, 1 minute, 9 seconds into Round 2.
“Before I was not fighting in the right weight class at flyweight, and when I went down to light flyweight I started knocking people back and giving them problems. I will go on to take on bigger challenges in the future.”
On the undercard, Frenchman Souleymane Cissokho (17-0, 9 KOs) floored Isaias Lucero (16-2, 10 KOs) in the second round and then cruised to a routine unanimous (118-109, 118-109 and 117-110) points win over the Mexican at welterweight.