JOE CORDINA reclaimed 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 was stripped in October when it was revealed he needed surgery on a hand that was later broken in sparring for his first defence.
Undeterred and undefeated, he made a second leap to the crown in his hometown of Cardiff and regained his belt with a perfect mix of skill and ferocity, winning it with cards of 111-116, 115-112 and 114-113.
Cordina’s hands were quick and precise and his forefoot pivot was smooth, Rakhimov – the 28-year-old from Tajikistan – piled forward-hurling body punches.
The southpaw champion regularly landed with his heavy left hand, but Cordina was happy to trade with him on 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 at the end of the sixth after the orthodox Brit had a chain of right hands.
Cordina – long thought of as a Welsh magician who could best use his long wands at a distance – was like a Mexican gunslinger dropping bombs in the Seventh’s pocket.
The scarred right hand – now rebuilt with two surgeries – landed back in the eighth, humming the wilting visitor.
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The championship rounds were up and down as Cordina tried to box and Rakhimov brawled with almost equal success.
But it was the hometown hero who splurged and partied in the final sessions as he awaited his second coronation.