Roach: Fighting Cordina in UK Not a Problem for Rakhimov

Shavkat Rakhimov leaves for Britain on Friday in preparation for his first defense of his IBF 130-pound title against former beltholder Joe Cordina on April 22, but his Hall-of-Fame trainer Freddie Roach says fighting on enemy turf holds no concerns for the native Tajikistani.

After fighting in Russia – primarily Ekaterinburg and nearby Chelyabinsk – for his first 14 professional contests, Rakhimov (17-0-1, 14 KOs) has turned out in South Africa, California, and Abu Dhabi, so Roach says a trip across the pond is effectively just another day at the office.

“We know we have to travel for this fight, but he's traveled long distances before, we're used to it, and after seven days in the UK, we'll be fine,” Roach told ProBoxTV News.

The contest with Cordina will be the fourth in a boxer-trainer relationship that began, as do so many with Roach, when Rakhimov just showed up at the Wild Card Gym in 2020.

The partnership got off to a suboptimal start when Rakhimov was held to a draw in February 2021 by JoJo Diaz, in a shot at the vacant IBF title he now holds. The belt was claimed nine months later by Kenichi Ogawa, who outpointed South Africa’s Azinga Fuzile; in June 2022, Cordina ripped the crown from Ogawa with a one-punch knockout in the second round, setting the Welshman up for a November defense against Rakhimov.

However, after suffering a hand injury, Cordina was forced to undergo surgery, prompting the cancellation of his defense and leading the IBF to, somewhat abruptly, relieve him of his title. Rakhimov instead faced Britain’s Zelfa Barrett for the once-again vacant crown, and this time secured the prize via ninth-round knockout.

Having effectively had two training camps to prepare for Cordina (15-0, 9 KOs), Roach is confident in his man’s ability to emerge victorious.

“Having a long training camp has always worked very well,” he said. “We've just been adding a little something every day. [Rakhimov] is a hard worker, he works hard every day. He trains every day. He does strength and conditioning every night at 6 o'clock every evening. He's just a very, very dedicated guy.”

Despite the emphatic nature of Cordina’s knockout of Ogawa, Roach feels his man is both the stronger puncher and will prove to be the all-round better man in the Cardiff ring next Saturday night.

“Cordina throws first class combinations.,” the trainer admits. “But he's a little bit slow. He kind of pushes his punches out there a little bit, and he's not nearly the puncher that my guy is.”

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