Joe Cordina will return home in a bid to reclaim his old title.
The unbeaten Welshman will welcome reigning IBF junior lightweight titlist Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov to his hometown, as their rescheduled title fight will take place April 22 on DAZN from Cardiff International Arena in Cardiff, Wales. Matchroom Boxing confirmed the venue on Monday as part of its full block of upcoming events through mid-May.
The roles are reversed from when the two were due to meet last November 5. Cordina (15-0, 9KOs) was forced to withdraw after suffering a right hand fracture at the start of training camp for what was his maiden title defense. The manner in which he was able to jump the line to land the title shot left the 31-year-old Cardiff native unable to honor his already overdue mandatory title obligation.
Tajikistan’s Rakhimov (17-0-1, 14KOs) was first in line to challenge for the vacant title, which came versus England’s Zelfa Barrett last November 5 in Abu Dhabi. Rakhimov survived a third-round knockdown to score two of his own in the fateful ninth round to claim. The undefeated 28-year-old southpaw—who is trained by Hall of Fame cornerman Freddie Roach—claimed the IBF title on his second try with the win, having previously fought to a twelve-round draw with an overweight Joseph Diaz in their February 2021 IBF junior lightweight title fight.
The belt was claimed by Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa in a November 2021 vacant title fight victory over Azinga Fuzile. The reign was short-lived, as Cordina emphatically snatched the title with a second-round knockout of Ogawa last June 4 at Motorpoint Arena (now Cardiff International Arena). The sensational one-hit quit made the year-end rounds as high among the most spectacular knockouts of 2022. It was agreed at the time of the Cordina-Ogawa fight that the winner was required to next face Rakhimov by no later than September 2, 2022.
Cordina used up his only available medical exemption on July 7, which allowed for the mandatory title fight to be pushed back to November 5. He ran into horrible luck when he severely damaged his right hand during a mid-September sparring session that left him medically out of the ring through the rest of the year.
The development forced the IBF to take action in accordance with IBF rule 11(J), which states that “a reigning Champion shall not be permitted to request more than one Exception to delay a mandatory obligation.”
Cordina has not fought since the career-best win over Ogawa. The upcoming title challenge versus Rakhimov will mark his fifth career fight in his hometown.
Rakhimov will make his first career appearance in the UK. All but three of his pro bouts have taken place in Russia under the guidance of local promoter German Titov’s RCC Boxing Promotions. The three road trips have all come in IBF-sanctioned title fights or eliminators, with that trend continuing in his upcoming title defense.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox