Josh Warrington, the pride of Leeds, is stuck on British boxing’s shelf. Considered a rising star for several years, the 26-year-old is still waiting to truly hit the big time.
This weekend, in front of his fervent hometown support, ‘The Warrior’ defends his WBC International Featherweight belt. As Adrian Clarke explains, it could be a defining night in his career…
Is he world-level, or a rung below?
Josh Warrington may boast a perfect 24-0 record as a professional, but the jury is still out. No one, including the likeable Yorkshireman himself, can know for sure.
To be taken seriously, he needs a big-name scalp on his CV – and new promoter Frank Warren looks to have served up just the right guy, at just the right time.
Former IBF Super-Bantamweight world champion Kiko Martinez has genuine credibility.
Defeats to Carl Frampton (twice), Scott Quigg and Leo Santa Cruz have sullied his reputation as an elite champion, but victory over the gritty Spaniard this weekend in his home city would still catapult Warrington into the frame for a world-title shot. Finally.
I say it’s a good time to tackle Martinez, for it feels as if his powers are on the wane.
Once feared for his knockout ratio, the 31-year-old’s last two fights have been dismal. He drew with a Nicaraguan that had lost 17 bouts last July, and on his most recent outing, the ex-world champion could only manage a scrappy points victory over a fighter that’s lost 16 of his 28 fights.
Plenty feel that Martinez, who was blitzed inside two rounds by Scott Quigg, is shot to pieces. In his younger days, a stoppage win for the overseas raider would have been considered a sensible bet, but ahead of Saturday’s clash, he is rated 14/1 to claim victory inside the distance.
…this could be the best we’ve seen of Warrington since he shut out the highly-rated Joel Brunker.
Warrington, approaching his peak years, has plenty going for him. A loyal, dedicated army of delirious followers in Leeds means he is a commercial dream, and his quick combinations and all-action style usually guarantee plenty of excitement. For years he’s talked of challenging for a world belt at his beloved Elland Road, and a good night’s work this weekend is sure to bring that dream closer.
“I’m not fighting him just to get a victory, I’m looking to win in style for the fans and send out a message to all the champions that I’m coming,” said ‘The Leeds Warrior’ in the build-up, and I imagine he’ll be as good as his word. Boosted by Martinez’s poor form, he will definitely chase a stoppage.
Ten months out of the ring won’t help, but having shaken off a long-term injury, this could be the best we’ve seen of Warrington since he shut out the highly-rated Joel Brunker, in September 2015.
Knocking Martinez out in spectacular style is what he thinks he needs to prick the ears of those at the top level. Current Featherweight belt holders Lee Selby (IBF), Oscar Valdez (WBO), Gary Russell Jnr (WBC), Abner Mares (WBA regular) and Leo Santa Cruz (WBA super) will all be on his radar – as would the likes of Quigg and Frampton, who are coming back from losses.
Right now, though, I am unconvinced Warrington can beat those guys. However, an impressive showing against an experienced opponent this Saturday could alter my perceptions. The Warrior needs to put his foot down and reach for the stars.
I see him stopping Martinez inside 12 rounds, and would be looking at between Rounds 5 and 8 as the most likely time. My choice is Warrington in Round 7 (12/1).
This is a big night for a very popular young man, and it looks like it’s the right stepping stone scrap for him.
For more boxing odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s boxing betting.