(This Joe Cordina commentary is from historian/writer David Payne in the U.K. with www.boxingwriter.co.uk)
Joe Cordina will tip toe toward the potential riches of 2024 this weekend when he faces American Edward Vazquez in the first defence of his IBF Super-Featherweight title. The fight takes place in Monte Carlo, a frequent sojourn for Matchroom, and is constructed to help Eddie Hearn further showcase the 31-year-old Welshman as one of British boxing’s most important attractions.
Cordina 16-0 (9 KOs), needs to be active to foster that type of interest and to gather the momentum required to fulfil his undoubted pedigree. Troubling for his promoter is Cordina’s desire for unification. Domestic profile opponents and unheralded contenders from the lower reaches of IBF’s top-15 will not suffice. Cordina is choosy, in a good way. Vazquez represents an uneasy compromise between the two agendas of legacy and financial return.
The aim is for the two to converge in 2024.
Who is the opponent?
For now, 28-year-old Edward Vazquez is the next to try and disturb that plan. From the original ‘Cowtown’ – Fort Worth, Texas – Vazquez travels East from the Western frontier to tackle by far the most talented opponent on his ledger of 15-1 (3ko). It is a record of tough fights on under cards and in small arenas against ambitious but limited men mostly looking to step forward not merely survive. Only 4 of his 16 opponents had losing records. Vazquez is rugged, likes to come inside the opponent’s reach and punch in flurries, often with the left hook as the principle instrument in a limited orchestra.
Review of his significant performances encourages doubt in his punching power. He hasn’t stopped a fighter since he began to box 8 or 10 rounds fights. And two of those wins were Split-Decisions on the cards alongside a loss to Raymond Ford, who is now ranked by the WBA and WBO as a Featherweight. However, Vazquez is busy in his work, shifts his weight well as he attacks and does offer some deception in his repertoire. An occasional lead right hand notable among them.
Opponents appeared to have success catching Vazquez as he leaves the closer distance to reset. He exits in a straight line, sometimes square on and with his head coming up from the crouch. Fighters have also counter punched over his slow and ‘army’ jab coming in too.
Hear Dan Rafael and T.J. Rives preview Cordina-Vasquez further on the “Big Fight Weekend Preview Podcast” by clicking below,
A fighter as masterful and precise as Cordina, with those characteristic wilting uppercuts, left hooks delivered as the crescendo to pin point accurate combinations from inside the pocket or from middle distance, should be able to capitalise on those gaps quickly. The fight will be decided, in terms of rounds travelled, by Vazquez’s ability to absorb those punches – and his willingness to. Cordina has advantages of hand-speed, footwork and is the puncher in the fight too.
Cordina beat the teak tough Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov in a thrilling fight in April to reclaim the title taken from him by injury and the haste of the IBF. Rakhimov was dropped in the second and was kept at bay for most of the contest. The southpaw from Tajikistan was a more powerful, stronger and much more seasoned 12-round fighter than Vazquez. It is hard to conjure a scenario in which Vazquez troubles Cordina on the basis of his performance versus Rakhimov alone. And this omits to mention Cordina’s extensive amateur career.
Fighters try hard not to look beyond their next opponent, and unbeaten men often prove toughest to quell but on the assumption Cordina wins on Saturday – and an early finish is a tempting pick – much greater nights lay ahead.
Of the unification fights Cordina craves, O’Shaquie Foster defended his title only last weekend and is a crowd-pleasing fighter happy to travel, Emanuel Navarrete holds the WBO and may be one of boxing’s most under-appreciated talisman and Hector Garcia, who has been inactive since challenging Gervonta Davis at lightweight in January, will need to box soon to keep that title. All three offer mouthwatering style match ups.
However, richest reward could yet come from a new entry into the division in 2024. Nottingham’s Leigh Wood, who declared his intent to move up to the Super-Featherweight division in the aftermath of his title defence versus Josh Warrington recently, is looking for an opponent to fill Nottingham Forest’s City Ground stadium next summer.
To contemplate those possibilities, Cordina must first dispose of Vazquez, the “low hanging fruit” Cordina has little patience for. Vazquez may discover just how shallow that patience is on Saturday night.