Joe Cordina: Welsh boxer sets sights high ahead of Wembley date
When Anthony Joshua entered the Wembley ring for his fight against Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday, among the record boxing crowd of 90,000 was be a Welshman hungry for the same limelight.
Joe Cordina opened the Joshua-Klitschko bill with a first-round stoppage in only his second professional fight against Sergej Vib.
Cordina and Joshua first met in a Team GB initiation in 2010 and the 25-year-old Welsh super-featherweight aims to follow in the giant Joshua's footsteps onto the big stage.
After a fourth-round stoppage against Jose Aguilar in his first professional bout last weekend, he said the Wembley bill was a huge step up, but also the sort of event he is more than capable of headlining.
"When I started boxing I was 16. There's no way I would have thought I'd be fighting in Wembley so soon. It's a dream come true," he said.
"It's just amazing. It's these shows I'm in the game for. I want to be going down in history."
Joshua's journey with Team GB culminated in a gold medal at London 2012.
Cordina did not reach his full potential at the Rio Olympics, despite claiming bronze at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and becoming European champion the following year.
After signing for promoter Eddie Hearn, he trains at the Matchroom Boxing gym with Joshua looking down at every feint and jab from framed pictures on the walls.
"It's a massive boost of confidence to see Joshua headlining an event against a guy who's been dominating world boxing since I was a child," Cordina continued.
"We started with Team GB the same week and he's gone on to do this, it's a huge inspiration for me.
"He's a total professional in every aspect. He eats and sleeps right and trains like a demon. I try to pick his brains, I want to go on and do what he's done.
"As long as I'm progressing I don't see why I can't fight a big fight like this. Maybe in the Principality Stadium."
Away from the ring
Cordina is quick to draw comparisons between their professional careers; Joshua took the same opening slot at Wembley in 2014 when Carl Froch knocked out George Groves. But in their humble nature there is a greater resemblance.
A four-hour car journey to Brentwood, where Cordina lives and trains during the week, reveals a boy who was also disruptive at school but now unwilling to let me buy my own coffee, persistent that I shared his small packet of sweets.
The Matchroom gym sits at the end of a country lane in an affluent area of smart restaurants and flashy cars. He trains to the sound of self-asserting sponsors snapping away at his every move.
But Cordina returns to a shared property; a lock on his small, unkept room where he sleeps next to his fridge in a poorly lit house of cigarette smoke-stained walls.
It is a world away from Tony Sim's gym, but also a world away from his life back home with his partner Lauren and young daughter Sophia.
"The moment I put my coat on my daughter starts crying. Shouting 'daddy don't go.' It's quite upsetting but she'll understand one day.
"I've moved my girlfriend into my mother-in-law's house. I don't want her being on her own. I don't get any privacy sleeping there on the weekend but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make."
Joe Cordina is straddling two worlds. He is making ends meet, but on Saturday will be living a dream.
"Where will you be in five years time?" I ask him.
"I'll be a millionaire." He replies in a millisecond and signs off with a convincing smile.