Josh Warrington, the IBF Featherweight champion, has enjoyed proving people wrong this past twelve months. Firstly, and most potently, to the two world-class fighters he has faced in 2018; Lee Selby and Carl Frampton. Both were outworked and outthought to first win and then defend the title he now boasts. The suspicion Selby and Frampton felt they were superior pugilists and, therefore, consciously or otherwise, dismissive of the Yorkshireman was hard to supress.
Warrington explained their mistake with his fists in qualitative and quantitative terms. Neither Selby or Frampton could discourage or dissuade him.
In pursuing Frampton at all, despite acknowledging he represented the richest prize he could snare, Warrington showed an intent to fight the best available competition and not follow the more customary practice of a ‘soft’ first defence following the title win.
Warrington’s manager, Steve Wood assures fans, the aim is to continue chasing gilded rivals and not settle for simple defences. [4 min read]
With the pulsating triumph over the proud Irishman now in the books, Warrington could again be forgiven for contemplating a more modest opponent to capitalise on his new found standing and to enable a pause for breath before greater challenges. The IBF ratings offer an apparent chorus line of just such possibilities after all; precious few of whom could be named by anyone but the most attentive of boxing fans.
His own rise to prominence should insulate him against hubris and the prevailing assumption the relative anonymity of those listed guarantees easy passage to the greater challenges that could lay beyond.
Of those listed, Genesis Servania, is the most prominent in the ratings of the other bodies; #3 with the WBA and number 1 with the WBO. Only Servania, Galahad and Nathaniel May are even rated by another of the four major organisations. Not that the collective insight of the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO is as instructive as it may appear to the uninitiated.
Within this parade of the unknown, Kid Galahad, the most recent graduate of the Winconbank production line in Sheffield founded by the late Brendan Ingle, is the fighter with a British angle to try and purloin a shot with. He isn’t a fan favourite, and despite his attempts to antagonise those that are he hasn’t yet mustered a rivalry that sells.
At the age of 28, despite the modernisation of preparations and the management of the fighter’s body that promises, but rarely delivers, an elastic ‘prime, Warrington probably has his best two years ahead. And to that end, it is exciting to hear manager Steve Wood talking so stridently, in his own laconic fashion, about unifications and not merely defences of the IBF belt.
In his video below, in which he discusses all of the fighters he manages and his aims for them in 2019, he is quite pointed about his own desire to progress Josh and not stagnate:
“The only way you can better [2018 for Warrington] is by unifying. That’s what we’ve got to look for in 2019. Unifying the Featherweight division and that is my focus.”
Whether those unifications will prove as easy to make as the intent is to express remains to be seen, but there is scope for Warrington’s Yorkshire fan base to enjoy a cultural visit to the Nevada desert in the way Hatton’s following did a decade ago. Wood adds, “It’ll come down to what Frank [Warren, Warrington’s promoter] can deliver. I think with the backing Josh has we can get them here. Josh talks about away days with the leads in Vegas. So, maybe one at home, one away but he’s got to be unifying not defending.”
Unifications are, historically, difficult to make, but the UK is a lucrative market these days and with stadium sell outs, streaming platforms and a clamour among TV channels to show top level boxing the hope is stronger than it used to be. Warren is explicit about his preference for home advantage for his fighters wherever possible and with the benefit of the shift away from America as the axis on which the boxing world spins he has the commercial muscle to make that a reality.
The other three champions would all be difficult fights for Warrington; Leo Santa Cruz, 35-1-1, who shared two fights with Carl Frampton, is the WBA Champion, the WBC recognise Gary Russell Jnr., 29-1, an exceptional fighter who loves a year off between bouts and unbeaten Mexican Oscar Valdez, 24-0, holds the WBO belt.
All are aged 28-30. The time is now. In an idealistic world.
Veteran Abner Mares and Bury’s Scott Quigg are two other names who could enter consideration if a unification proves elusive. Give Steve’s 2019 preview a watch for more insight.