Joe Cordina forced to gamble in thrilling title defence in Monte Carlo

Joe Cordina was forced to gamble in Monte Carlo on Saturday night, taking risks to secure a majority-decision win over Edward Vazquez and retain his super-featherweight world title.

Wales’ Cordina and American Vazquez traded clean shots throughout a thrilling bout, with the momentum ebbing and flowing before Cordina was declared a 116-112 winner on two of the scorecards, while the other read 114-114. As such, Cordina retained the IBF belt and stayed unbeaten.

After a brief feeling-out stage in the opening round, in which you could hear a poker chip drop in the Casino de Monte Carlo, the boxers engaged in bursts of intimate brawling. Cordina, 31, was favouring his left hook, while Vazquez, 28, was unloading uppercuts at point-blank range.

When Cordina returned to his corner, he repeatedly tapped his torso with his glove, marking a cross before looking up to the chandelier above.

As the fight edged towards its midway stage, it became increasingly fraught with moments of mutually-assured danger. Vazquez was finding success with his overhand right, while a determined Cordina was firing back as both men landed almost at will.

Spritzes of sweat were spraying over those at ringside, the prince of Monaco included, before Cordina brought about the moment of the fight so far. The champion looked to have turned Vazquez’s world blurry with a spiteful combination of hooks and uppercuts, leaving the American swaying low to avoid the incoming barrage. Vazquez, however, collected himself and set about taxing the Welshman for those shots.

The pair were mixing in grappling, but still, this was a firefight. A left hook perturbed Vazquez in the fifth round, but the challenger again remained composed and came back with an overhand to jolt back Cordina’s head.

In the sixth, Vazquez knocked out Cordina’s mouthguard before flashing his own at the Welshman with a menacing grin. Again his overhand was effective, but it was Cordina who produced the cleaner work in Round 7 and the greater consistency in Round 8, while Vazquez was fighting in spurts.

Vazquez would arrest the momentum, however, with speed and volume of output in his favour in the ninth – and with Cordina taking too many shots to land too few. All of a sudden it was the champion looking to halt his opponent’s momentum, throwing with intent and power in an effort to do just that.

The penultimate round seemingly put the outcome in the balance, with Vazquez’s left hook landing hard on multiple occasions, but in the final frame, Cordina threw every attack he could at the American – and threw in all his chips in a bid to leave Monte Carlo with the only prize on his mind: his IBF title.

And on Wednesday – after a few days of relaxation – the Welshman will do just that, having edged a thrilling, nervy affair in Monaco to keep alive his title reign and his dreams of a stadium fight in Cardiff.

Vazquez was visibly and audibly aggravated; Cordina’s promoter Eddie Hearn admitted that two of the scorecards had been too wide. But all that matters is that, on Saturday night, Cordina’s gamble paid off.