Joe Cordina, a Welsh boxer with a Maltese family lineage, last month became a world champion by winning the International Boxing Federation junior lightweight title from defending champion Kenichi Ogawa.
The 30-year-old professional boxer was born in Cardiff but his grandfather was from Għajnsielem and moved to Wales, where Joe’s father was born.
The championship fight was organized by the IBF, one of the four major boxing organizations in the world.
After winning the title, Cordina spent some time on holiday in Malta, basking in the glory of the prestigious win and in the scorching sun of his grandfather’s home country.
My sport is dangerous, and I cannot afford any slipups, because one small mistake could get me badly injured-Joe Cordina
Soon, however, he will return to his rigid routine of unyielding and uncompromising training in preparation for his next fights – a routine which has not allowed him to drink, party or go out with friends for years.
“I’ve been doing it since I was 15. I did not enjoy my teens. I did not celebrate my 18th or 21st birthdays… I didn’t party, didn’t go out and missed out on several family events. Because I wanted to be the best, and I knew that partying and drinking would put thousands on the clock,” he told the Times of Malta.
“My sport is dangerous, and I cannot afford any slipups, because one small mistake could get me badly injured.”
Cordina wakes up at 6am every day and takes a run, after which he works out in the gym. In the afternoon he usually has boxing training, and he plows through some weightlifting again in the evening.
And he does it almost every day.
‘A very hard life’
“It takes a lot of sacrifice and I’m always at risk of picking up a lot of injuries along the way. It’s a very hard life, and you can’t go into it half-heartedly. You must give it your all,” he said.
“In other sports you play… you play football, basketball, tennis. But you don’t play boxing. It’s a very real fight and one punch can get you seriously hurt.”
One, very precise and meticulous punch on the side of the chin was, in fact, all it took him last month to knock out former Japanese world champion Kenichi Ogawa, who collapsed flat on his back in the second round.
Cordina explained that a knockout is literally when the opponent momentarily loses consciousness as a result of a well-delivered series of punches.
A knockout is a fight-ending, winning move when the boxer who is knocked down cannot get up by the count of 10.
The danger is appealing
“I do it because of the thrill. The fact that it’s so dangerous makes it so appealing to me,” he said, adding that boxing in nothing like wrestling, where moves are frequently choreographed to create an entertaining spectacle.
Cordina has been with his partner for 15 years and they have three children. Even though she was with him from the very beginning, he admits she still worries about him.
“I don’t let my children watch my fights. What I did to Ogawa last month could happen to me one day, and I don’t want my children to see their father getting beat up,” he confessed.
“They do know what I do for a living but I don’t think they fully understand how serious and consequential it could be.”
He did say, however, that there were no hard feelings between him and the Japanese fighter after the championship was over.
“There’s nothing personal in this. It’s just business. That’s how I earn money,” he said.
Two or three years left
Cordina also participated in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow, and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil.
He may by enjoying the peak of his career right now but acknowledges that he will probably have to step out of the ring in a couple of years’ time.
“I probably have another two or three years left in me. Then I’ll retire, and after that I would like to manage and train other fighters. But until then, there’s still so much to do,” he said.
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