THE last time Joe Cordina boxed in Monte Carlo it came at the end of a relatively busy year by the Welshman’s standards, yet would, unbeknown to him, be followed by a 16-month layoff.
His opponent that night was Mario Enrique Tinoco, whom he outpointed over 10 rounds, and what lurked around the corner, meanwhile, was a global pandemic, in addition to some injuries which have, it’s true, unfortunately plagued Cordina throughout his professional career.
Now, though, he appears very much on the mend and therefore returns to Monte Carlo on Saturday (November 4) not only active but as the current IBF super-featherweight belt-holder. That was a belt he picked up in 2022 when knocking out inside two rounds Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa with arguably the finest punch thrown that year. It was then defended successfully for the first time in April, when edging Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in a gruelling 12-round affair, again in Cardiff.
It perhaps stands to reason, then, that following what were, on paper, two difficult assignments for Cordina, he gets a somewhat easier one this Saturday in Monte Carlo. That’s not to say his next opponent, Edward Vazquez, comes lacking a threat, of course, but certainly, when compared to Ogawa and Rakhimov, he is a boxer without their experience, their reputation, and indeed the same level of danger.
A pro since 2016, Vazquez, from Fort Worth, Texas, has compiled a record of 15-1 (3) fighting all around America, often in competitive fights against fellow prospects. This, one would assume, has sufficiently toughened and readied him for this step-up, yet typically in these situations it is only at this point, when at last stepping up, we find out the true potential of a fighter like Vazquez. So far we can gather, based on his record and the very nature of his wins, that he is not a big puncher, but of course that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to hurt Cordina; perhaps, after all, the reason for Vazquez’s scarcity of stoppages – without one in his last five fights – has as much to do with him being in the ring with hungry opponents as it does any deficiency on his part.
Either way, while not facing the crème de la crème of the super-featherweight division, Vazquez has at least been testing himself against men with some ambition recently. These include Brayan De Gracia, whom he outpointed in July, as well as Misael Lopez and Viktor Slavinskyi. That each of these fights ended up being close maybe indicates Vazquez’s ceiling isn’t much higher than where he is currently operating, but still, he comes into this fight against Cordina on a winning run and, just as important, has been active of late.
Most of Vazquez’s fights, in fact, appear to have been close – whether fights he ultimately won or, in the case of a 2022 bout against Raymond Ford, ones he lost. That, the only blip to date in his 16-fight pro career, was a split decision, and Ford since then has gone on to beat Jessie Magdaleno, the former WBO super-bantamweight belt-holder, which suggests losing against him wasn’t the worst result in the world.
Still, as much as Vazquez is clearly developing and, as much as he will arrive in Monte Carlo with lots of ambition, it is hard to see anything other than a Cordina win this weekend. He is, without question, the quicker and more powerful of the two and, what is more, for maybe the first time in the Cardiff man’s career there is now a real sense of momentum and urgency, which is something he has both wanted and needed for some time. It might go long, and even go the full 12 rounds, but Cordina, 16-0 (9), should be a dominant winner here all the same.
Down at light-flyweight, IBF belt-holder Sivenathi Nontshinga, from South Africa, will defend his title against Adrian Curiel, from Mexico.
This will be the second defence for Nontshinga, who won the title when outpointing another Mexican, Hector Flores Calixto, over 12 rounds in September 2022. Since then, the man from Reeston, known as “Special One” and 12-0 (9) has a pro, has also outpointed Regie Suganob, a Filipino he fought at home in South Africa in July.
As for Curiel, meanwhile, whose record stands at 23-4-1 (3), this shot against Nontshinga represents his first challenge for world honours having fought exclusively in Mexico.
Also on the Monte Carlo show, French welterweight Souleymane Cissokho, 16-0 (9), fights another Mexican who has yet to fight outside his homeland in the form of Isaias Lucero, 16-1 (10).
Now 32, Cissokho remains a talented prospect and decorated amateur (bronze medallist at the 2016 Olympics) who knows how important it is to start making inroads in his pro career. Since scraping by Britain’s Kieron Conway via split decision in 2021, he has beaten Ismail Iliev (RTD 4), Roberto Valenzuela Jr (UD 10), and, last time out, Tulani Mbenge (UD 10). He should therefore have no problems dealing with Lucero, an aggressive type who in his last fight was outscored by Chester Parada Torales in Los Cabos.
Finally, in the women’s super-bantamweight division, there is an opportunity for Ramla Ali, 8-1 (2), to exact revenge on Julissa Alejandra Guzman, the opponent who dramatically knocked her out in June. That will be easier said than done, however, given the ease with which Guzman, 13-2-2 (7), appeared to hurt Ali whenever she landed anything clean on her, particularly in rounds five and eight, the round in which the fight eventually ended. Then again, having so far had things all her own way as a pro, maybe a test like this, with so much at stake and so much jeopardy involved, is exactly what Ali needs at this stage of her fledgling career to put it all together and show what she can do.