JOE CORDINA left the Monte Carlo casino with more in the bank than he had when he arrived and that is a win. In the ring, Cordina was not happy with his 12 rounds against Edward Vazquez and that is understandable. The fight was harder than expected, closer than expected and Cordina was a harsh critic of his work.

Vazquez did not deserve the one drawn card, but he forced Cordina to fight in just about every single one of the rounds; Cordina was often caught between boxing with style, at distance with some lovely counters, and then having to handle Vazquez when he was trapped on the ropes.

“A win is a win,” Cordina said at the end in the ring. “I had a bad night and I still won.” In the ring, Vazquez and his team had put in a final flurry of insults after the result, claiming a robbery, which it most certainly was not.

The scores were 114-114 from Jeremy Hayes, Dean Dwarte and Jean-Robert Laine, both had it 116-112 for Cordina. There were a lot of hard rounds, but Cordina won them. It was not a bad performance, not even close – Joe Cordina just got sucked in occasionally, which was the Vazquez plan.

Cordina mixed fast jabs with the odd body shot in the opening few rounds; if he kept still, Vazquez got closer and let his hands go. Cordina was in control, even in the rounds that he possibly lost.

In the fourth, a smart right uppercut hurt and stunned Vazquez. It was a moment for a finish, the crowd of about 300 made some noise and the three grand chandeliers above the ring in the casino did shake. Cordina followed the uppercut with a lot of big punches and there were about 90-seconds left for Vazquez to survive. He did and that was impressive. The challenger did well to hear the bell and it was a sign that Vazquez was not going to fall over.

Vazquez possibly won the fifth with his pressure and in the sixth, he trapped Cordina on the ropes repeatedly. Cordina was on the ropes, but not in trouble and he was able to block and move away from Vazquez’s punches. The rounds were a mix of easy, long-distance boxing from Cordina and the moments when Vazquez could get close enough to land. Cordina made it harder than it should have been. Vazquez was probably better than expected. The result was never in real doubt, and Cordina left with his IBF super-featherweight title in its metal case.

Cordina wants big fights next year and it sounds like he will get them. Cordina also deserves big fights. The ringside debate was whether Cordina could take the same punches if Leigh Wood was the opponent; the real debate might be if Wood, up a few pounds, could take what Vazquez took. That is a fight, make no mistake.

Sivenathi Nontshinga was defending his IBF light-flyweight title and winning friends all week in the land of luxury. The tiny South African can fight and he looked sharp in the opener against Adrian Curiel. His jab was crisp, he moved well, and he smiled as he walked back to his corner at the bell.

It is not often that underdogs pull off big wins in a casino, but Mexico’s Curiel hit the jackpot with one sweet right cross in round two. It was a massive shock when Nontshinga went down in a heavy heap. He was finished and Sparkle Lee, the referee, took a quick look and never bothered to count. The official time was 1-09 of round two. There was, for the only time all night, silence inside the beautiful casino hall.

It was an emotional and dangerous night for Ramla Ali; it was her 10th fight, and it could have been her last if she had lost for a second time to Julissa Alejandra Guzman. That is not an exaggeration. Guzman dropped and stopped Ali back in June; it was, to tell the truth, a heavy loss.

Guzman was confident that she would repeat the win and fought like Ali would crumble at the first punch. Ali boxed smart from first to last bell; she moved with style, never wasted a punch and let her hands go as Guzman tired, slowed and marked up. It was a quality performance and a brave one.

Guzman was stronger, bigger and laughed her way through a few rounds; Ali was patient, finding shots, not taking risks. It was tight after five, but Guzman was getting caught too often.

“Don’t get greedy,” Craig Richards shouted at the end of seven. Ali was just taking control; her right hand was changing the shape of Guzman’s face. Guzman was still putting pressure on, and she did catch and hurt Ali a few times; Ali never panicked.

At the end of 10, Ramla Ali put her career back on track; the scores were far too tight: Mark Calo-oy, Jeremy Hayes and Aurelien Pena all had it 96-94 for Ali. I had it a bit wider.

Souleymayne Cissokho is a smart boxer, skilled, clever and cautious. He went the full 12 with Isales Lucero and won clearly. Pablo Gonzalez and Jean-Robert Laine scored 119-109 and Jon Llona Fernandez delivered a 117-110 score.

It was not enough, to be honest. He could have forced the pace; he could have put Lucero under pressure a lot more. In the second round, Cissokho dropped Lucero with a right hand, and it looked like it was all over. Lucero’s body language was all wrong, but he beat Massimo Barrovecchio’s count at about eight; it looked like he was going to stay down. Cissokho missed the chance to finish it.

Lucero stuck with the task, did enough to be in each round, but never put Cissokho under anywhere near enough pressure. In the ninth, Lucero picked up a small cut by the side of his left eye and Cissokho let his hands go a bit more. It was a solid twelve rounds and Cissokho has been out of the ring since last December, but he needs a bit of urgency in his work.

In the end, as royalty at ringside posed for pictures with Cordina and a few others, the lights came on to end the boxing part of the night. Cordina did smile, eventually. And that is good; the big fights are coming.