Cordina eyes World Championship glory

Matt Bevan
17/09/2015 11:22am

The Olympic Games has been a hotbed of success for British boxers over the years with medals coming thick and fast in recent times. Team GB has won eight gold medals since boxing’s introduction into the Olympics in 1948, including the likes of James DeGale, Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell.

However, World Championship gold has so far eluded all but one British boxer. Frankie Gavin remains the only British World Amateur Champion and it took nine attempts to even secure a medal, when Welshman Kevin Evans won heavyweight bronze at the 1999 tournament in Houston.

The latest batch of stars from the Team GB production line in Sheffield will be hoping they can match Gavin’s achievement when they travel to Doha in Qatar for the 18th World Championships, which begin on 5 October.

Leading the team will be Joe Cordina, who became European Champion in August in Bulgaria, and the 23-year-old from Cardiff believes he can emulate Gavin in a tricky lightweight division.

“It gives me a massive boost going over to Qatar as the European Champion,” Cordina told BM. “But I also know the pressure will be on and I will have a target on my back, as well as getting looked at as one of the big names, similar to how I was looking up to guys at my first World’s.

“I’m confident that I can come home as the World Champion. I’ve tasted success at a major tournament last month and I want more. It felt amazing to win the Europeans, in fact I still struggle to describe how it felt.

“There are always some big names at these tournaments in every weight, but the way I was sparring and training going into it, I was more confident of getting the better of any of them. We got six medals in all, out in Bulgaria, which also shows that this squad is capable of performing on the big stage.”

For Cordina, the win in Bulgaria was the final part of a rebuilding process after what was a difficult 2014. The passing of his grandmother impacted on his preparation and performance at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he won a bronze medal, but was expected to do better.

Cordina says the disappointments have set him in good stead, as he heads to Doha, with a quarter-final stoppage win over former World Champion Domenico Valentino proving he is in the “form of his life”.

“I’ve had a couple of disappointments in the last year, in and out of the ring, which I’ve learned from and had to cope with,” said Cordina. “The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow was the biggest example for me, as I was in great form going into that tournament, but then got hit by the bad news a month before that my grandmother had passed away.

“I had a week off to clear my head and went to Canada to fight, but got stopped in the first round by David Gauthier, who I ended up beating in the second round in Glasgow. So I got my revenge, but the round before I beat the gold medal favourite in Pat McCormack, so I was certain I would win it, before slipping in the semi-finals to Charlie Flynn, who had the home crowd behind him.

“But since then, I have stepped it up a gear and won three golds and a bronze at tournaments, including wins over World and European medallists at them all, so I have rebuilt well and my form is back, so I’m sure I’ll do well in Qatar.”

The 23-year-old shares the same ambition as all the fighters currently on the Podium Squad in Sheffield, which is to reach the pinnacle of the amateur ranks and win a medal at the Olympic Games. Littering the walls of the impressive facility at the Institute of Sport are the names and pictures of fighters who have won medals at previous Olympics.

Alongside the likes of Joshua, Campbell and DeGale are famous names including Dick McTaggart, Terry Spinks and Alan Minter as well as Amir Khan, Audley Harrison and Robin Reid. Cordina would love to see his name up there, too.

“There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about Rio and the Olympic Games,” he told BM. “I was at the London Games as part of the Ambition Programme with Qais Ashfaq, so I experienced the atmosphere of an Olympics and it’s given me the drive to make sure I achieve that for myself and bring home a medal.

“All you need to do to get that extra 5-10% in training is look up at the walls here in Sheffield and see the great names that are up there who have won Olympic medals. In the last cycle there was Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell, Nicola Adams, Fred Evans and Anthony Ogogo, and it wasn’t that long ago that they were training alongside us and going to the same tournaments, so we know it can be done. We all want to get our name and picture up on that wall and always be remembered as an Olympic medallist.”