Joe Cordina: Every Time I Hit Ogawa – I’m Going To Hurt Him!

Boxing Scene

Joe Cordina is trying not to let the pressure of history weigh on his shoulders ahead of the biggest night of his life.

Wales is only a small nation with a little over 3 million residents, but it has a proud boxing heritage stretching back to Jimmy Wilde a century ago.

On Saturday, at the Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, Cordina looks to add his name to the list of world champions from the Principality when he challenges Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa for the IBF super-featherweight title.

“I will be the 13th world champion from Wales,” Cordina said. “It’s playing on the back of my mind, it’s a little bit of pressure, but I have lived with pressure my whole career.

“There was no bigger pressure than when I went to the Olympics. It was pretty much eight years of my life sacrificed to get to that point. So, for me to fight in the quarter-final and lose, it was like eight years had been wasted. But the pressure that was on me then was unbelievable and it was getting to me.

“People will ask me about Joe [Calzaghe], or Enzo Maccarinelli, or Barry Jones, but for me it’s all about me on June 4.”

The Motorpoint Arena, close to the city centre in the Welsh capital, is most closely associated with Calzaghe, who defended his WBO super-middleweight title there six times when it was simply known as the CIA (Cardiff International Arena), including memorable fights against Charles Brewer and Byron Mitchell.

Cordina, 30, only has vague memories of his legendary compatriot, though.

“The closest of his fights I ever got to watch him fight was Peter Manfredo and I wasn’t even boxing at the time,” he said. “I was in Cardiff and we were going to the cinema and we bumped into a bunch of Americans going to the fight. I tried to get hold of tickets, but it was a bit too late. I was gutted I never got to see him in person.

“The Motorpoint Arena is still seen as a prestigious venue. The first thing I watched there was wrestling. After that it was Lee Selby the night Anthony Joshua boxed there. But I’ve been to see lots of concerts since.”

The route to the top has not been completely straightforward for Cordina, who has managed just 14 fights (all wins) since his appearance at the Rio Olympics nearly six years ago.

Nearly two years were lost to a hand injury that required an operation, a time when he thought nights like next Saturday might just not happen.

“There were moments I thought it could be over, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “When I first had the op, I was trying to make little investments because I didn’t know when money would be coming in from boxing.

“I didn’t know if my hand was going to heal up, I didn’t know if I was going to get back to boxing. It is 100 per cent now, but I did have those thoughts.

“For three months I didn’t do anything with it, it was in a cast and a splint. When I started punching with it, it felt a bit weird, a bit stiff and restricted, but now I am used to it, I feel like I can punch through a wall.”

While Ogawa is not the best known world champion, Cordina knows he is in for a tough night, although he believes he is naturally the bigger man, something he will have to exploit.

“He’s a world champion for a reason, but I don’t feel he has fought anyone like me. He walked through (Azinga) Fuzile, but Fuzile is a small man. I’ve come from lightweight and I am a big super-feather, I spar welters and light-middles and hold my own with them.

“I may not punch as hard as him on paper, but every time I am going to hit him, I am going to hurt him. But I am a tough man, I come from a tough part of Cardiff. I won’t go down easy, he will have to push me to my limits to even take a step back.”

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 – covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.

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