There is, I believe, something hard wired in to our collective psyche that encourages us to root for the underdog; to cheer for those that seek to overcome, those that rise when knocked down or stretch for a dream apparently beyond them. Perhaps this solidarity is a product of our island status and the ensuing defiance it encourages, all clotted together into a sugary fudge by the echoing sentimentality of a thousand war films and a warped nostalgia for an Empire we now apologise for.
Or maybe it isn’t special to us at all, and is, more truthfully, a simple and innately human response to the plight and peril facing those dwarfed by the assets and advantages of their foes. What ever informs this predilection for the ‘little man’, I’m surprised it didn’t infect my judgement of last month’s Selby and Warrington match. A contest which secured Warrington the IBF Featherweight belt and now the IBoxingTickets.com’s Boxer of the Month for May.
Despite my resistance this time, it is true that the British public warmed more to the courage of Chris Eubank in twin defeats to Carl Thompson than ever they did to his arrogance in victory, and they loved Gascoigne for his vulnerability as much as his genius, Eddie the Eagle for his pluck and messers Johnson and Taylor for their impossible World Titles far more than ever they did the impervious Davis against whom they were won.
As a Yorkshireman I’m customarily predisposed to this inclination more than most, growing up beneath the heel of Thatcher’s boot forges a kinship with those fighting against the odds. It is therefore a surprise, in retrospect, that I couldn’t conjure a case for Josh Warrington to find a way to overcome Lee Selby in their Featherweight title fight.
I was both vociferous and, as it proved, myopic in my assessment of their relative merits and ignored those closer to the two protagonists who pointed to the Welshman’s difficulties at the 9 stone limit and the unshakeable belief of the unbeaten Yorkshireman. It took seconds for my conclusions about Warrington; that he lacked the guile or wisdom to adapt his style or to remain calm beneath the pressure of the event and the presumed success Selby would enjoy, to be proved wildly incorrect.
His performance was outstanding; disciplined and astute in both attack and defence, he showed depth to his tactical prowess and forced Selby to fight at a good pace, without ever over-extending himself or offering Selby opportunities to counter as he may have assumed he would be able to do. Even when the proud champion, making the fifth defence of his IBF belt, suffered terrible cuts early in the fight, Warrington remained true to his plan and offered Selby little avenue back into the contest.
In victory, Warrington proved a great many people wrong and confirmed his credibility for a contest with Carl Frampton in to the bargain. A fight which should bring him a large pay day and one in which he will, again, be a betting underdog. However unlikely the bookmakers determine a Warrington victory will be in the exalted company of The Jackal, this writer will not be as quick to dismiss his chances again.
Congratulations to Josh on his performance, an essentially unanimous choice, with a respectful nod to Lomachenko’s victory over Linares, among the three judges, and like April’s winner Tommy Coyle, he illustrates the virtues of hard work, detailed preparation and glowing self belief.
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To provide impartial judgement for this award, Kevin enrolled the help of Danny Flexen, Martin Theobold and I to determine the monthly winner. The victor could be chosen from any level of the boxing world, novice to champion, regardless of weight, promoter, broadcaster or nationality.
- Danny Flexen
A former publishing manager for the world’s oldest boxing publication, Boxing News, and a sports journalist for over a decade, Danny now writes for BritishBoxingNews.co.uk and Boxing Monthly, while diversifying into video interviews for Seconds Out.
- Martin Theobold
As a lifelong boxing fan with a passion for writing, Martin decided to merge the two in 2015 when he created the New Age Boxing website. The aim was to create opportunities for under the radar boxers that would benefit from the exposure of a wider audience.
As well as picking out the emerging talents for interviews, Martin also regularly attends shows to report ringside on the action and is part of the New Age Boxing podcast, which itself has developed into running live shows bringing together boxers and fans.