Joe Cordina overcomes Gavin Gwynne to retain British and Commonwealth titles

Joe Cordina overcomes Gavin Gwynne to retain British and Commonwealth titles

By Dewi Powell: Cardiff’s Joe Cordina (10-0, 7KO) prevailed in an all-Welsh war with Trelewis’ Gavin Gwynne (11-1, 1KO) at the O2 Arena in London.

‘The Welsh Wizard’ collected a unanimous decision victory courtesy of well-earned 116-110, 116-110 and 116-111 scorecards after an entertaining encounter.

It began at range with Cordina’s jab spearing Gwynne in the opening minute. When Gwynne first closed the distance, he was warned for hitting behind the head. Cordina settled quickest and a three-punch combination responded, landing around Gwynne’s guard in the session’s cleanest work.

Although retreating, Cordina often returned to centre ring after moving. It helped the champion turn defence into attack, which came courtesy of meaty counters. Gwynne wasn’t able to land a lot of clean work but persisted forward nonetheless.

Gwynne’s pressure enjoyed some success in the third round, clipping Cordina with short hooks as he swayed against the ropes. Replies were made as Cordina dipped down and whipped hooks and uppercuts when he returned upright, leading to a touch of gloves at the end of the round.

The pair traded solid jabs to start the fourth round, only to be interrupted by another warning for hitting the back of the head – this time for Cordina. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder when it restarted and the intense pace showed no signs of slowing.

Gwynne was more blatant in the fifth, attempting to walk Cordina down and force him to the edges of the ring. It was the first time the challenger applied his size advantage and his best work yet. Cordina circled and stuck to single shots.

The sixth round caught fire from the bell as Gwynne bundled Cordina to the canvas. The referee ruled that it wasn’t a knockdown, whilst Gwynne held his left hand in the air in triumph. Again, it led to punishing shoulder-to-shoulder exchanges and even if Gwynne wasn’t winning, it was turning into the type of fight he envisaged.

Using his sheer size, Gwynne appeared to generate steady momentum in the seventh round. Long straight shots pushed Cordina back, forcing him to throw wide pot shots. One of them punches strayed below the belt and led to a point deduction.

Cordina’s crisp shot selection returned in the eighth round. He found the gaps in Gwynne’s defence, sitting down on solid power punches often enough to keep control of the exchanges. Messy clinches littered the ninth and both smothered each other. This time it was Gwynne’s turn for a point deduction, disrupting the success he had with a huge uppercut.

The pace finally dipped in the 10th round and there was an argument Gwynne pipped it on aggression, especially as he measured his jab with increasing accuracy.

The championship rounds reflected the pattern of the previous 10. Gwynne remained undeterred as Cordina continued with the cleaner work, though it always stayed competitive.

The lightweight’s British and Commonwealth straps were up for grabs in the meeting that was surprisingly scheduled for 6:30pm on Sky Sports Box Office. The fight found itself way down the pecking order, despite being big enough to have headlined a televised show on home soil.

Although an all-Welsh affair and local derby, the build up remained respectful and both men should be commended for their conduct. There was no trash talk, contray to what happens too often in the current climate. The most confrontational they became was a pair of steely stare-offs at the press conference and weigh-in, where just 8oz separated them.

Cordina entered the title defence as a heavy betting favourite. It was a reflection of not just the Olympian’s amateur background, but also the ease he’s settled into the pro-code.

Gwynne came into the contest as a Welsh champion, having overcome Cardiff’s game dangerman Henry Janes at the end of 2017. Injuries ruled out planned Celtic title fights, though Gwynne has since recorded an impressive points win over highly touted English champion Myron Mills, handing the switch hitter his maiden defeat.

The pair shared gym-links. Following Gwynne’s impressive run in the 2014 Welsh Championships, he was invited to train with the Welsh national amateur squad. He sparred a handful of rounds with Cordina, who was preparing for the Commonwealth Games where he earned a bronze medal.

Years later, they shared the same trainer. Gwynne turned professional in 2016 and linked up with Tony Borg at Newport’s St Joseph’s Boxing Club – the base Cordina frequented when he wasn’t training with Team GB’s podium squad in Sheffield. Six months later, Cordina would leave the camp when he turned professional to join Essex based coach and manager Tony Sims.

It had been 25 years since two Welshmen contested a British title together and all three previous occasions had ended early. Most recently, Swansea’s super-featherweight Floyd Havard stopped Llanelli’s Neil Haddock in 10 rounds. Earlier in 1986, Swansea’s featherweight Robert Dickie halted Newport’s Steve Sims in five rounds. Three years previous, heavyweight David Pearce reversed fortunes for the two cities when he dethroned Neville Mead in nine rounds of their rematch.

Image by Matchroom.

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