Cordina crowned European champion
“Yes! Get in there!” were the words screamed by Cardiff’s Joe ‘Welsh Wizard’ Cordina earlier today as he was crowned the lightweight (60KG) champion of Europe.
The 23-year-old claimed the gold medal at the European Championships in Bulgaria with a Unanimous Decision points victory over Georgia’s Otar Eransyan. After a gruelling five fights in 10 days, Cordina retained enough of his quick reflexes and sharp skills to stay a step ahead of a determined Eransyan and claim his first major tournament victory.
The Welshman’s legs seemed heavier than usual in the first round but he quickly adapted to take advantage of his opponent’s eagerness, catching the pressure fighter as he recklessly approached. Cordina’s counterpunches caught the officials’ eyes and two of the three judges favoured him in the opener.
The pattern remained the same in the second round with Cordina circling the perimeter of the ring but despite his calmness, it was far from comfortable for the gutsy St Joseph’s Boxing Club member who was forced to work for every second. With Eransyan eager to gain momentum, he rushed forward only to be met with several flush right uppercuts and left hooks from Cordina.
The crisp replies weren’t enough to stop Eransyan in his tracks, though. Cordina adapted to the blatant charges by staying very close on the inside and smartly smothering his opponent without holding, tactics that clearly worked as all three judges awarded the second round to him.
Amidst warnings from the referee to keep his head above waist height, Cordina stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Eransyan for periods of the last round. Having matched the naturally aggressor at his own game, Cordina came through it and remained ahead on the scorecards.
Throughout Cordina’s previous four fights, he hadn’t overexerted himself and it meant his well-maintained tank matched his mental maturity which allowed the Cardiff native, who has recently become a father for the first time, to produce the best results of his eight year career. It was Cordina’s second medal at a major event in the space of 12 months, having collected a bronze at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
On that occasion, the switch-hitter appeared to tire by the time he reached the semi-final due to another gruelling schedule but the way he preserved his energy in Bulgaria will give him confidence in future physically demanding tournaments.
Cordina was the only one of Team GB’s five finalists to win a gold medal as Harvey Horn, Muhammad Ali (not that one!), Qais Ashfaq and Pat McCormack were all defeated and collected silver medals. In 2011, St Mellons’ Fred Evans and Barry Town’s Andrew Selby became Wales’ first European amateur champions for 86 years and both progressed to the Olympics, with Evans making even more history by annexing a silver medal.
It’s a path Cordina will be keen to follow and his European venture has now secured him a place at October’s World Championships in Doha, Qatar where he will have the opportunity to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil.