This coming Saturday we'll see IBF Super Featherweight champion Kenichi Ogawa (26-1-1-1, 18) seek his first defense, as he travels to Wales and takes on unbeaten Welsh challenger Joe Cordina (14-0, 8). The bout will see Ogawa making his European debut, having twice fought in the US along with 27 bouts in Japan, whilst Cordina will be getting his first world title bout. The contest will also be a really interesting one, as one of the top hopes of the UK steps up from European level to face a dangerous puncher with true world class power.
Of the two men Ogawa is, as a world champion, the more established in the professional ranks. He debuted in 2010 and slowly built himself on the Japanese scene before winning the IBF title last year. His route to the top is somewhat a traditional route in Japan, winning the Rookie of the Year, which he did in 2011, before winning a Japanese title, which he did in 2015, climbing up the world rankings, and finally winning a world when he beat Azinga Fuzile last November. Despite following something of a traditional Japanese route, he's not always followed Japanese tradition. He was once stripped of the IBF title for a failed drug test, becoming the first Japanese fighter to be stripped for such a reason, and he is also one of the few Japanese fighters to have won a world title in the US. In fact if he wins this bout he will also become the first ever Japanese fighter to successfully defend a world title in Europe*.
In the ring Ogawa doesn't do a lot amazingly well and watching him we don't see a fighter with incredible reflexes, or amazing speed. Instead however he fights to his strengths, which include a destructive right hand, patience, a good chin and great focus. We have seen him out boxed in the past, and we have seen fighters prove that he struggles with movement, as Satoru Sugita showed twice, but with his power, his determination and his controlled aggression he is a real danger man who keeps his power late in bouts. His right hand is his main weapon, especially against southpaws, but he also has solid power in his jab and hook, which he does mix into his attacks when he needs to. If anything he can be made to look lazy, but at the same time he is very much controlled in his aggress. With wins against the likes of Deivi Julio Bassa, who was unbeaten at the time, Rikki Naito, Kazuhiro Nishitani and Azinga Fuzile, he has a solid resume, but one that is very much under-rated.
Aged 30 Joe Cordina is regarded as one of the big hopes of British boxing, specifically Welsh boxing. Cordina turned professional in 2017, and did so with a lot of expectations on his shoulders following an excellent amateur career. His time as an amateur saw him winning a gold medal at the European Championships in 2015 and a Bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He also competed at the 2016 Olympics, beating Filipino Charly Suarez before losing to Hurshid Tojibaez in the second round. When he turned professional he started fact and stopped his first 4 opponents in the first round, in less than 5 months whilst fighting at both Super Featherweight and Lightweight. Within a year of his debut he won his first title, a WBA International title, before adding the Commonwealth title a few months later and then the British title a few months after that. By the end of 2019 he seemed to have some momentum building in his career, but sadly that momentum was derailed in 2020 when the pandemic kept him out of the ring for a full year. Thankfully for him he did bounce back in 2021 with 3 wins, with the most notable of those being a razor thin majority decision over Faroukh Kourbanov, but it does feel like this is a notable step up for him, from European level to world level.
During his career Cordina has been both praised for his skills, speed and slickness. And criticised for his lack of finishing and questionable power. He's a fighter who is clearly skilled, and the Welshman is a brilliantly talented southpaw boxer-puncher, with crisp clean punches, a nice sharp jab, good feints and really nice speed, both with his hand and upper body. He can be a little flat footed and although a fighter who looks relaxed and composed we do wonder whether he can still be composed and calm when he's facing someone with genuine fight changing power. In fact if we're being honest Cordina, since turning professional, hasn't really faced someone who's a puncher. Saying that he does appear to have good defense, though few fighters he has faced have ever really had the tools to even come close to unpicking him.
Historically Japanese fighters have not had great results in Europe. There are only a handful of wins by Japanese fighters in Europe, with the most notable being a win by Naoya Inoue against Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2019 for the IBF Bantamweight title. And it's fair to say that Ogawa will be the under-dog here. Despite that Ogawa has shown his ability on the road, as seen in his win over Fuzile, and he has typically enjoyed fighting southpaws, with his "Crush Right" being a devastating weapon against lefties. If Cordina can either avoid that right hand, or neutralise it all together, he has a really good chance of out boxing and out skilling Ogawa. If he gets caught however this could be a painful night for him. We suspect, over 12 rounds, Ogawa will land, and will land something big, even against someone with the defensive skills of Cordina.
Prediction - TKO11 Ogawa
*Naoya Inoue's WBA "Regular" Bantamweight title wasn't being defended when he fought Emmanuel Rodriguez for the IBF title in 2019 as part of World Boxing Super Series.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.