Joe Cordina scored a stunning second-round knockout at home in Cardiff, Wales, and took the IBF junior lightweight title from Kenichi Ogawa in short order.
Cordina (15-0, 9 KO) had been one of Matchroom’s more celebrated prospects, but saw his career stagnate a bit the last few years, before getting this opportunity and taking a major step up in class against Ogawa (26-2-1, 18 KO), a proven world-level fighter and defending titleholder.
Cordina, who has Maltese heritage, did come in the slight betting favourite, but that may have been mainly because he was the home fighter, and the odds suggested that if he were to win, it would go to the cards. It did not.
After a nervy first round where the two felt one another out and Ogawa, 34, landed a couple of solid power shots in the final minute, Cordina was able to catch the Japanese veteran with a shocker of a right hand, and the fight was suddenly over at an official time of 1:15 in round two.
Ogawa did try to get up, but just could not, with the referee reaching a count of 10.
After the fight, Ogawa looked OK, and was up and congratulating Cordina, raising his hand and acknowledging him to the fans at Motorpoint Arena, who had an electric energy. Cordina responded with respect to Ogawa, too, and asked the same of his fans.
“It feels amazing. The support I had here tonight was unbelievable,” Cordina said after the fight.
“I’m a bit speechless. You get caught with shots early on in fights. He’s a puncher on paper, and I could feel (his power), but it was nothing I haven’t felt before. I sparred big punchers in this camp. I’ve been in with Conor Benn, who’s probably the most explosive puncher in the world at the moment. So compared to that power, (Ogawa) don’t even compare.
“We worked hard in the gym, practising certain things. When he was twitchy early on, we knew that was what he was going to do. I knew to keep stepping to my right, and that’s what I did.”
“We call it the Roberto Duran,” Cordina said of the finishing punch.
“We’ve been working on it all camp. It’s an amazing feeling when you put hours and hours and hours of work into a certain combination or punch, and you don’t even think about it, it comes off, and lights out, it’s over.”