Joe Cordina challenges Kenichi Ogawa for a world junior lightweight title on Saturday, but not too long ago he feared injury had destroyed his boxing dream.
Cordina (14-0, 8 KO), 30, takes on Ogawa for the IBF Japanese boxing title in front of hometown fans at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales, after quickly gaining momentum with three wins last year.
The Welshman’s career came to a halt due to a right hand injury which left him worried about the future and out of action for 15 months.
“I got the fight injury in 2018, but I fought because I was just in [minor] title fights and I wanted to keep fighting, I didn’t think about the severity of my injury,” Cordina told ESPN.
“I went to see a specialist and he didn’t really give me any specifics about the nature of the injury and after a short rest he continued.
“I had three more fights in [in 2019] with the injury and went through each with a cortisone injection. When the pandemic hit, I had my hand operated on in Manchester by a surgeon named Mike Hayton. I had over a year off but it allowed me to heal, so when I came back I wasn’t holding back any more.
“I did the metatarsal bone of my index and middle fingers, and they had to take bone from my hip and put it in my right hand. The wound on my hip then got infected and I spent ten days on the sofa without being able to move afterwards. .
“It was always on my mind after the operation that I was never going to win a world title again now. I could come back after 15 months and not be the same fighter. But I trusted the specialist and I believe in God that he had a plan for me.
“I’ve had three fights since the operation and worked hard to get here. I train in Essex which means living away from my wife and three children, missing birthdays and lots of important things. I sacrificed a lot for my dream of becoming world champion.”
Ogawa (26-1-1, 18 KO), 34, of Tokyo will make a second defense of the IBF junior lightweight title after winning a unanimous decision over Azinga Fuzile in New York six months ago.
Ogawa is more experienced, but Cordina thinks it’s the right time for him to fight for a world title.
“He’s a solid fighter and a good world champion, he’s got experience but a lot of his first fights were in Japan and technically he’s not at the same level as me,” he said. Cordina said.
“It was only in the last few years when he was fighting in the United States that he was challenged. He got the win over Tevin Farmer, but he was declared a no contest because ‘ he tested a banned substance. [in 2017].
“Ogawa will probably be the favorite and I don’t mind that because he has more experience than me. But I will do my best to get out of this ring with the IBF belt. It’s the right time for me and if not it’s not, so it’s probably never going to come.”
If Cordina succeeds in his first world title attempt, he doesn’t want to be known as “the next Joe C”.
Joe Calzaghe reigned as world super middleweight champion for ten years, making a record 21 world title defenses and beating Mikkel Kessler and Jeff Lacy before moving on to point Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. at lightweight and heavy.
But the 2016 Olympian isn’t listening to theories that he will be the next Calzaghe, or the first boxer from the Welsh capital of Cardiff to hold a world title in 22 years since Barry Jones lost the WBO junior world title. lightweights against Acelino Freitas in 2000.
“I don’t see it that way,” Cordina said. “I don’t care how many Welsh world champions there were and that I might be the next – I just wanted to do it for myself, my family and secure my family’s future. When I started boxing, my goal was to get to the Olympics, I did it, now it’s to become world champion and I want to achieve it.
“You’re always going to be compared to Joe as a Welsh boxer trying to win a world title because Joe was arguably the best to come out of Wales. He did what he did for a long time and for me even be compared for him, that’s a good thing, but I’m not Joe Calzaghe and Joe Calzaghe is not me.
“Everyone is different. I’m here to prove that I should be mentioned in the same category as Joe, but I haven’t even won a world title yet.”