Josh Warrington: what’s next?
By L Butler: Josh Warrington is one of the leading lights of British boxing currently. In the wake of Anthony Joshua’s defeat, he reigns as one of Britain’s only undefeated world champions along with Billy Joe Saunders, Callum Smith, Josh Taylor, Kal Yafai (and Tyson Fury if you recognize his lineal title).
Warrington is currently being heavily pushed by his promoter Frank Warren to break into the realms of Ricky Hatton-esque superstardom, and he does have a fan-base that is poised to support him to reach that level. Perhaps only Taylor and Fury out of the current British world champions have greater ticket-selling power than him at this moment.
Considering this, it is reasonable to say that last weekend there were thousands of Warrington fans who had their hearts in their mouths, fearful that he was about to lose his title to the unfancied Kid Galahad, who despite the groans of many dissatisfied with his spoiling tactics, won the fight according to most of the major boxing media outlets. Luckily Warrington managed to escape with a split-decision win, keeping his IBF title in the process.
People are quick to point to Warrington’s coming out party, against Carl Frampton in December 2018 as a justification to consider him as a real contender to successfully unify the division. Perhaps I am bitter because I was so certain that Frampton would outclass Warrington in their fight in Manchester last December, but I can’t help but believe that Frampton just read the fight completely wrong, got caught in the first round and played catch up from then on. Why Frampton, a small Featherweight, decided to go toe-to-toe with Warrington, playing entirely to his game plan is beggars belief. If you have heard Frampton out since the last fight, he openly admits that he read the fight wrong, and given another chance he would right the wrongs of the past fight. While I’m not one for excuses, I don’t think anyone can truly admit that Warrington has the class and boxing finesse of Frampton, and while you must give Warrington his credit, I think it is unwise to read too much into this fight.
When I look at Warrington, a brawler with immense heart, a great chin and the engine of a Boeing 747, I can’t help but be drawn to compare him to another British fighter who has reached a similar level, Chris Eubank Jr. Chris Eubank Jr is considered for the most-part a laughing stock. He’s a 2x IBO champion, who is seen as lacking the boxing finesse to ever reach true world level, but yet, has beaten esteemed opposition such as James DeGale (albeit an over-the-hill version), Avni Yildirim (who came close to winning the WBC title earlier this year) and Arthur Abraham. Warrington similarly has beaten an arguably weight-drained Lee Selby, Carl Frampton and now, Kid Galahad, albeit by the skin of his teeth. Where the derision of Eubank has come from is his inability to beat truly top class fighters, his losses coming to George Groves and Billy Joe Saunders, who negated his brawling style by boxing him and tying him up when he attempted to unleash his flurries. When watching Warrington’s fight with Galahad, I couldn’t help but think back to Saunders’ victory of Chris Eubank, which similarly drew accusations of spoiling, with some in fact having Eubank winning the fight. Ultimately, with the world title being on the line and the ridiculous but long-standing idea of having to ‘rip the world title from the champion’ in play, the Warrington-Galahad fight ended in perhaps the wrong result according to most objective observers.
This is where it becomes difficult to assess what the future may hold for Josh Warrington. Following the Galahad fight he’s made his desire to break the U.S market and attempt to unify the division quite clear, refusing all talk of a rematch. So how do we think he will get on with the champions at this weight, namely the WBC champion Gary Russell jr, the WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz and finally the WBO champion Oscar Valdez? It’s a difficult question. If you are one who considers Warrington and Eubank Jr’s brawling style to be negated by anyone with a sufficient boxing IQ, I don’t think there is much hope for Warrington against Russell Jr or Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz in particular, who appears to be Warrington’s main target has previously ended up in what was a brawler fight between two boxers, coming out second best before adjusting his style in the rematch to regain his title.
I think, given Santa Cruz’s experience in adjusting to such styles, it would be unwise for Warrington to take him on, especially given that it would be his first fight in the bright lights on the other side of the pond. I think Russell Jr, being the superior boxer, would beat Warrington on his night. However, as discussed earlier, if Russell jr were to make the same mistakes as Frampton in reading the fight who knows if an upset could be pulled off, especially given Russell jr has never fought anyone with the tenacity of Warrington in the pro ranks. I think the fight that would be best suited to Warrington would be the Oscar Valdez fight.
Valdez although having an esteemed amateur pedigree, is all too keen to brawl when given an opportunity, something which would play right into Warrington’s hands. I think that fight would be a fight of the year contender, given that Valdez has shown his heart through absolute wars with fighters such as Scott Quigg and is a big and established featherweight, something that Frampton is perhaps not. Ultimately, I think that Warrington is there to be beaten, a skilled boxer or spoiler should in theory have his number, but who knows? In a year’s time we will be looking at Josh Warrington, unified featherweight champion of the world?