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World champion! Anthony Cacace shocks Joe Cordina to take IBF world title

Anthony Cacace became Ireland’s newest world champion on a sensational night in Saudi Arabia.

‘The Apache’ Cacace pulled off a career-defining performance to stop Joe Cordina in the eighth round and snatch the Welshman’s IBF super-featherweight title.

The 35-year-old West Belfast man shook Cordina – and the world – at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh on the Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk undercard, adding the IBF strap to the IBO title he already held.

The former plasterer from Andersonstown took the trowel to Cordina and cemented his name in Irish boxing history, joining that great band of world champions from Belfast.

Thirty nine seconds into the eighth round, Cacace landed a clubbing right hand on Cordina and referee Bob Williams, who had had a good look at things in the seventh, stepped in to wave it off.

Cacace moves to 22-1, 8KOs with Cordina dropping to 17-1 after suffering his first defeat.

The first two rounds were tit-for-tat stanzas, those sort that can go either way without much of a fanfare.

The course of the night – and perhaps Cacace’s very life – was altered in the third.

Cacace rose from the stool with real aggression and a whopping left hand had the Welsh Wizard spellbound.

The referee had called ‘break’ as fists passed in the Saudi air. Williams had a word, but there was little complaints from Cordina’s corner at the time.

Cacace sensed a big moment was imminent and he sent Cordina spinning to the canvas with a monster right. Cordina was now on shaky round, but managed to get to the stool. Only just.

Before jetting in to Saudi Arabia last week, the only blot on Cacace’s copybook was back seven years ago when Martin J Ward decisioned him at the Wembley Arena when the British title was on the line.

Mickey Hawkins senior and junior – both of whom Cacace worked with while at the Holy Trinity club in Turf Lodge – were in the blue corner.

Cordina was making his third defence of the IBF strap he first won in June 2022 when overwhelming Kenichi Ogawa in just two rounds in Cardiff.

Cordina might’ve been a little less convincing in defending the strap, first last April against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, also in Cardiff and, more recently, in November when getting a split decision nod against Edward Vazquez in Monte Carlo.

Cordina responded well in the fourth and shaded those three minutes. “One bad round, that’s it,” Cordina’s coach, Tony Sims, told his man.

At Friday’s weigh in, Cacace touched the scales at 129.13lbs with Cordina bang on the 130lbs button.

The fifth returned to the tit-for-tat style of the earlier verses and Cacace clearly felt he was on top at the close of a round he ended well.

Cacace’s career was somewhat stop-start and he arrived in Riyadh having had only three fights in the last four-and-a-half years.

Cacace bagged the IBO super-featherweight strap in 2022 when beating Michael Magnesi on a split decision and defended it last May via a unanimous decision win over Damian Wrzesinski at the Odyssey Arena.

Cordina was rather saved by the bell again in the sixth, just when the Welshman seemed as if he might shift the momentum.

Cacace was sucking the energy from Cordina, who was on creaky ground as the buzzer sounded. In the corner, Cordina appeared to indicate that he was in trouble to his coach.

With every sinew of his being, Cacace tagged Cordina in the seventh. When Cordina wobbled on receipt of a rollocking right upper, Williams’ gaze lengthened.

The end was nigh and inside the first minute of the eighth Cacace went was in a new stratosphere. “I’ve been waiting 12 years for this opportunity,” he said during the week. “I am just a wee boy from Andytown making my dreams come true.”