Joe Cordina outclasses Mario Enrique Tinoco in Monte Carlo

Joe Cordina outclasses Mario Enrique Tinoco in Monte Carlo

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

By Dewi Powell: Most boxers often wait for a loss before making major changes but Cardiff’s Joe Cordina (11-0, 7KO) decided to switch weight categories after a win.

The 28-year-old defended his British and Commonwealth belts against Welsh champion Gavin Gwynne at the O2 Arena in August. Two Welshman hadn’t fought each other for the British title since 1994 and Cordina came through with a unanimous decision win after 12 physical rounds. It was tougher than many expected, partially due to Gwynne’s sheer size and it contributed to Cordina’s decision to shed five pounds and head south from lightweight to the 130lbs super-featherweight limit. The obvious benefit is that Cordina would now be the one to own a size advantage against opposition closer to his dimensions.

Mexico’s Mario Enrique Tinoco (18-6-4, 13KO) was selected as the opponent and provided the perfect test to welcome Cordina to the weight class. They met on Matchroom’s show in Monte Carlo, Monaco and Cordina produced a performance to match the stylish surroundings. Cordina came through with another unanimous decision win and the three judges rewarded his crisp shot selection with 98-92, 98-92 and 96-94 scorecards.

“I thought I was doing it correctly until Dan Lawrence came onboard with my S&C [strength and conditioning]. He was helping me out with my nutrition and he totally changed the game for me,” said Cordina, who had been well under the lightweight limit days before he fought Gwynne.

“The people at world level at lightweight are bigger than Gavin [Gwynne]. Maybe not as tall but they’re wide, thicker set and punchers. I’m not a big lightweight, I’m a big super-feather. It made sense for me to take it a bit more serious, be a bit more strict and change a couple of things. I made super-feather no problem. I was a pound under [the limit].”

Tony Sims, the Essex-based coach who took the reigns when Cordina left the 2016 Olympics, was full of praise. The softly spoken born-again Christian smiled in his analysis to Sky Sport’s Andy Scott at ringside: “I thought he boxed really smart. He worked to orders and as he was saying, the Mexican was a big puncher. You could see he was heavy handed on the inside.

“I thought his [Cordina’s] long range shots were excellent, his hand speed was good and towards the end of the fight, he was mixing it up inside. Joe can work really good inside as well. Overall it was a good performance and a good learning fight. Don’t forget, it was only his 11th fight.”

Cordina quickly found his range in the first round. He fired accurate right crosses and oozed a calming confidence in front of the cameras. Tinoco edged forward, only to be met with a mix of clever footwork and counters thrown from centre ring. In stereotypically Mexican fashion, Tinoco got busy with body shots to both sides in the second round. However, Tinoco also switched to southpaw and that isn’t a stereotypical trait.

Cordina said: “Tinoco looks a small man but he’s boxed up at lightweight, super-featherweight and featherweight. He can go up and down and I’ve seen him at lightweight pushing people back. When he boxed Devin Haney [current WBC world lightweight champion], he had him on the back foot.

“I remember going to the press conference and David Diamante [Master of Ceremonies] said, ‘Joe, don’t take this geezer lightly. He’s the real deal, he’s just under top level and he can cause a lot of people problems. Be careful.’ I don’t take anyone lightly.”

Cordina had to adapt to thwart the dynamic threat and Tinoco got his wish in the third round as Cordina met him head on and exchanged in the pocket. The ‘Welsh Wizard’ blocked and countered straight down the pipe, before pivoting to the sides and resetting the exchanges to go again. It kept Tinoco guessing and he even walked back to the wrong corner at the end of the round until his cornermen ushered him to his stool for a minute of rest.

Referee Jean Robert was hardly needed as the pair sorted themselves out, barely holding or spoiling the action for a breather. Tinoco was always looking to get stuck in and that eagerness worked against him. Cordina’s movement opened the angles for piercing uppercuts, before he decided to stamp his authority in the fifth round. The meatier shots were usually long right hands or wide hooks to the body, around the sides of Tinoco’s high guard.

“Tony [Sims – trainer] wanted me to keep pivoting but I was so much physically stronger than him,” said Cordina of his more direct approach. “I felt like on the inside, he ain’t gonna do anything I’ve not done in sparring. I was sparring welterweights! I was practicing staying on the inside and pivoting around, making them miss and catching them straight away, not even with a hard shot. I felt really, really confident.”

Tinoco started the second half of the fight with a renewed energy. The well-known Mexican body shots landed and it was reassuring when Cordina remained calm, confident in his ability to handle the pressure. Cordina then enjoyed a strong finish to the sixth session, gracefully unloading straights like he was aiming a bow and arrow. There was no sign of the unbeaten operator being worn down and he started to diversify his attack in the seventh. The most impressive eye-catcher came when Cordina unrolled two soft uppercuts, only intended to divert Tinoco’s attention away from the third punch, which was a stinging left hook to the body. It was a show of regal skills and won favour with new fans in the crowd, including Prince Albert II of Monaco.

The last two rounds saw Cordina continue to pull away. The former amateur star is well-known for his silky skills at long range, so the revealing of his ability up-close was a welcome sight. It called on all of Tinoco’s guts and his attempts to override Cordina never slowed. Tinoco often rallied at the ends of rounds and that ambition won Cordina’s respect, leading to a sporting embrace at the end of the 10 rounder.

Studying the flow of the fight, Cordina said: “You know he’s got that physical strength. When I boxed him, in the second round I thought, ‘okay, I’ve got to be wary here.’ When I got on the inside in round four and I started working, I felt the life drain out of him. By rounds seven and eight, I started putting shots together and it felt quite easy in there. The size of me at super-featherweight will play a part in my fights.

“I knew I had to be on my a-game. To be honest, it felt like when I was in there, I could’ve done another five rounds. It felt like I didn’t have to step up any gears. I only had to stay in one gear and just be smart, don’t take any big risks. I felt so much physically stronger than him. I knew this guy couldn’t cause me any problems at all.”

It was no surprise to see Tinoco last until the final bell. The 29-year-old hard man recently upset Nottingham’s much-fancied prospect Jordan Gill and lasted the distance with current WBC champion Devin Haney. Cordina handled him as well as anyone else and all the indicators were pointing to higher levels. The WBA Continental bauble doesn’t mean a lot in the bigger picture. However, its involvement signaled Eddie Hearn’s intentions for Cordina to climb the world rankings and target the titles at the top.

“I think I’m number 18 on BoxRec in the super-featherweight division. I’m slowly getting there. [Carl] Frampton and Jono Carrol are the only ones in the British and Irish isles that are above me. I’m ninth with the WBA and I’m in the IBF rankings also. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there. Three fights or maybe four and I’ll be ready for a world title.

“I’d fight anyone for a world title. If they said [it was possible] tomorrow, I’d jump at it. For me, I’d tell them I’ve been in camp constantly. I’m lying but I’d take my chances! Any of the world champions, I’d take them.

“If I had my way, I would go straight to the world title and that’s what I’m aiming for.”

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

Image by Huw Fairclough.

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