Paulie Malignaggi's Picks: Cordina, Wood and Foster can build on Gatti's legacy

Joe Cordina fights Edward Vazquez in Monte Carlo on Saturday with the platform to make a statement.

As an ex-Olympian he’s got pedigree – he’s got talent and potential – and he’s a marketable, good-looking guy growing in popularity in the UK. Vazquez hasn’t fought a better opponent than Cordina; Saturday’s fight is about Cordina, the IBF super featherweight champion, building momentum by winning impressively and then targeting a bigger fight. He has fast hands, and while he doesn’t have to blow Vazquez away he needs to win in a dominant way so that there’s a growing demand for him to fight more recognisable names.

Leigh Wood is one of those – and a fight between them could build into a big domestic rivalry. Wood, who recently beat Josh Warrington, is always in exciting fights; he’s started to get attention in the United States, having won fights like he’s England’s answer to Arturo Gatti. A fight between Wood and Cordina could even prove a passing of the torch.

Cordina’s insisted the right hand he injured in victory over Kenichi Ogawa, and which required surgery, is fine, but hand injuries can become chronic so him saying that doesn’t mean that it is. Hand injuries don’t just risk becoming chronic, they’re something fighters have to keep between themselves and their teams to avoid giving opponents confidence, and which can then frustrate them if their performances suffer but they have to remain silent. 

He’s also spoken about fighting Emanuel Navarrete, but even if the politics between DAZN and ESPN can be overcome to make that possible, Cordina requires more building and to put more pressure on the powerbrokers involved – perhaps by impressively beating Wood. Navarrete’s win over Oscar Valdez showed what a good fighter he is at 130lbs, and has helped him start to build a legacy – his fight later this month against Robson Conceicao, another Olympian, can show that again.

Paulie Malignaggi's Picks: Cordina, Wood and Foster can build on Gatti's legacy
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Navarrete-Conceicao is on the undercard of Shakur Stevenson-Edwin De Los Santos, in Las Vegas. Stevenson, unfortunately, is having to take on another opponent who isn’t as well-known as they ideally would be, because those well-known opponents are avoiding him.

Stevenson’s therefore in a difficult position where, as a long dominant fighter, he’s got to continue dominating lesser-known opponents when he’s already ready for the highest-profile lightweights in the world. He and Cordina have previously spoken about each other – and I can see how a fight between them can work for both, even if a fight between Stevenson and Devin Haney is the one that got away.

Last weekend, also at super featherweight, O’Shaquie Foster defended the WBC title with a heart-stopping, come-from-behind knockout of Eduardo Hernandez, similar to Gatti and Wood – and in the same weight division Gatti did it to Wilson Rodriguez and Gabriel Ruelas. In 2023 super featherweight’s becoming similarly fun and dramatic.

Foster was losing, so he needs to recognise that he needs to improve to avoid putting himself in that kind of situation. He’s got to be more consistent in both his performance and how often he fights – his victory came after a big swing in momentum, and after seizing that momentum he needs to take advantage by fighting more consistently. He’ll never be in a better position in his career to secure the big fights – but the big fights will only happen if he stays busy.

It was announced this week that Robeisy Ramirez will fight Rafael Espinoza on December 9. He’s a two-time Olympic gold medallist and a Cuban standout, so we’ll always be curious about him and his progress. Since losing on his professional debut and being written off, he’s proven himself to be a very, very good world champion. 

In the future he could move to 130lbs and be involved in some exciting fights there; if Naoya Inoue dominates at 122lbs like he has previously a fight between Ramirez and Inoue at 126lbs will be a super fight. Ramirez fighting on the undercard of Inoue’s fight with Stephen Fulton even suggests that that’s a rivalry those around them are already attempting to build.