Josh Warrington takes on Hisashi Amagasa in the city tonight, but both men have Lee Selby in their sights. Lee Sobot reports.
JOSH Warrington has urged Lee Selby’s team to organise a Leeds world title fight against him this summer, insisting the Welshman might not have a belt to defend this time next year.
European, Commonwealth and WBC international featherweight champion Warrington will return from a seven-month absence against Hisashi Amagasa at First Direct Arena tonight with Warrington’s progress stalled by a bout of flu over the new year.
That meant pulling out of December’s planned fight against Jorge Sanchez – a bout that was an important part of the 25-year-old’s build up to a potential world title fight against IBF featherweight champion Selby at Elland Road this summer. And while the Yorkshireman’s enforced absence had seemingly put the immediate prospect of that showdown on the back-burner, Warrington is advising Selby that he may have no real option but grasp the here and now.
Warrington is aware that Selby’s team may want to pursue other options first – with the Yorkshireman also aware that arranging any sort of fight at Leeds United’s home this summer, would now be a race against a time.
But the Leeds fighter has described Selby’s last two performances in beating Eric Hunter and Fernando Montiel as “shocking” and thinks if he’s not given the opportunity to fight Selby’s for the IBF title soon, the chance may have gone.
Warrington explained: “I think he would like to give it a few more fights and then if we could both make it up to Christmas unbeaten then we could have like a good five months build up to it and then fight next June. But is Lee Selby still going to be champion?
“After his last couple of performances, he’s not looked too great so it’s a risk that his people have to decide.
“To fight Lee Selby at Elland Road it would need a lot of promotion and a lot of build up so it would be a tight gap in between. But if that was to happen then that would be my next fight and I’d fight him tomorrow. I’d fight him in my back garden if it could work like that.”
Selby was in action only last weekend when successfully defending his title against Hunter in London but Warrington was not impressed.
“Lee Selby is a world champion and you can’t displace that because it takes a good fighter to win a world title,” said Warrington.
“But that said, his last two performances have been shocking and that’s just me being honest. That’s just my opinion.
“He’s gone into there thinking he’s just going to walk over these guys.
“The thing is, he seems to believe his own hype. He goes on about how he is going to unify the division and he’s the best about and he talks like he’s levels above me. I read something the other week with him saying he couldn’t see me being the world champion but I couldn’t see him as the world champion after his last couple of performances.
“In his fight last week he got put his backside and I think that’s why he is desperate for the fight now.
“Originally, he had lost interest in it and he wanted to go to America and start getting in the big pay days and cheques there but it’s just gone flat.
“Over there he didn’t impress too much and I don’t think the Americans took too much interest in him so he’s come back over here and the biggest fight he can have over here is me.
“He’s desperate for a big day and there’s nowhere else to go, really.
“If he goes to America then some of your champions over there – like Gary Russell Jr, Leo Santa Cruz’s and Lomachenko, they are an elite set of fighters and if I wanted to do it I would like another 12 months behind my back before I fought one of them. I would fight them tomorrow but realistically if he went over there and boxed one of them now then there’s a big chance he would lose his title.”
Warrington will now defend his WBC international title in Leeds this evening against an opponent very few will be familiar with in Amagasha.
The Japan-born fighter is a 5-1 underdog this evening but Warrington revealed that Amagasa himself has his own designs on setting up a showdown with Selby.
Warrington warned: “Amagasa is not a household name but he’s not to be discredited because he’s a very, very good fighter.
“He’s most famous for having Rigondeux – who is one of them guys that is pound for pound one of the best in the world – on his backside a couple of times.
“He’s tough, he can take a punch, he’s fit for 12 rounds and he’s tall as well for the weight. He is five foot ten-and-a-half for nine stone.
“It’s going to a tough fight – and this guy wanted the fight.
“When we were looking for an opponent for April we asked for a few names fell through or already had fights had matched up.
“We were left wondering who we would fight and then Amagasa’s team they originally wanted to fight Lee Selby and obviously you can’t just jump into a world title fight so I think Edddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing offered Amagasi the fight. They said if you beat Josh Warrington then you might get a shot at a world title so there’s a lot in line for him as well.”
Yet it is Warrington who is fancied to set up the prospect of a showdown with Selby this evening – and the possibility of another major event as part of what will already be a life-changing summer.
Warrington and fiancé Natasha Lynch are set to tie the knot in August and the unpredictably of the boxer’s sporting commitments are currently preventing him from organising a stag do.
But two things are certain – that the pre-wedding celebration will be in Ibiza -–and that the whole of Leeds is invited.
Reflecting on the latest wedding plans, Warrington laughed: “The only thing sorted at this moment in time is Tasha’s dress, Tasha’s shoes and the venue.
“With the boxing it’s difficult as when I get a fight all my time is focused on that and this time around Tasha has taken a bit of time off work to help me out with selling tickets and everything else so she’s been busy as well but we’ll get there.
“With my stag do – I want to have one but obviously I can’t plan it a month ahead because I never know when the next fight is.
“It was difficult enough to find a date for the wedding.
“But if I have time off in July or June or whatever then what I would do is tell of my mates who could make it – four days in Ibiza – Friday until Monday – I’d let them know first and give them the hotel address first.
“And then after that I’d just open it up on social media to anyone else who wants to come along.
“I’ve got friends and fans who have become really good friends over the years and supporters and they are all from different areas and when you add it up it equates to a couple of hundred.
“So why not just open it up to everybody and have a good time?”