Eddie Hearn backs Joe Cordina to reclaim world title he lost through injury

Eddie Hearn says Joe Cordina was rightfully stripped of his world title but has backed the Welshman to reclaim it on Saturday.

Cordina challenges Tajikstani champion Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov for the IBF super-featherweight crown before a Cardiff home crowd, determined to regain the belt that he lost outside the ring due to injury.

Rakhimov was Cordina’s mandatory challenger after stepping aside to allow the 31-year-old to face Kenichi Ogawa in June, a contest that ended with a stunning second-round knockout victory for the former Olympian.

Chris Eubank Jr v Conor Benn – Press Conference – Canary Riverside Plaza Hotel
Promoter Eddie Hearn (pictured) says the International Boxing Federation were right to strip Joe Cordina of his world title (Simon Marper/PA)

But he then broke his hand on his first day of training for the planned Rakhimov fight in November and underwent surgery.

Cordina felt hard done by when he was subsequently stripped of a title that eventually passed to Rakhimov with his ninth-round stoppage win over England’s Zelfa Barrett in Dubai.

But Matchroom promoter Hearn said: “I will be outspoken – controversial or not – and in this case the rules were the rules.

“Joe was allowed the exemption to fight Ogawa over Rakhimov under the ruling that the winner must fight Rakhimov within 90 days.

“We got one extension and then when he broke his hand, Joe had no chance. The IBF unfortunately made the right decision.

“It was unquestionably harsh on Joe, but we’ve got a great fight on Saturday and we’ll bring it back.

“Rakhimov is super tough and super durable, but I think Joe wins by stoppage. I look back to the Ogawa fight and the sharpness of Joe’s punches.

“I think he will be too sharp, but Rakhimov has got a great engine and is a beast.”

Kenichi Ogawa v Joe Cordina – Motorpoint Arena Cardiff
Eddie Hearn (second right) congratulated Joe Cordina after his world title victory over Kenichi Ogawa last June (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Cordina weighed 129lbs 1oz with Rakhimov slightly heavier by six ounces.

Former world champion Joe Calzaghe was on stage to welcome both fighters to the scales.

Cordina and Rakhimov will be protecting unbeaten records in front of 5,000 fans at Cardiff International Arena.

Rakhimov has 17 victories and a draw on his 18-fight record, while Cordina, who boxed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and is a former European amateur champion, has won all his 15 professional contests.

Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko Public Workouts – Wembley Arena
Renowned trainer Freddie Roach (pictured) will be in the corner of Joe Cordina’s opponent Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov on Saturday (Nick Potts/PA)

“I’m not impressed with his speed, he’s slow to make his shots sometimes.

“Our guy is stronger and we will attack him and I think we win by KO.

“It’s going to be a great fight in a great city.”

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