Josh Warrington has earned himself a shot at the world title after defeating Irishman Patrick Hyland at a vociferous First Direct Arena, says boxing promotor Eddie Hearn.
A potential British clash with long-term rival and world champ’ Lee Selby has long been on the cards, and with Warrington increasing his already growing reputation once again, that fight is a shoo-in for November.
Boxing in front of his loyal support in what was his sixth headline event in the city, the fighter demonstrated his ability to compete at the elite level of featherweight boxing in a ruthless display, as referee Ian John-Lewis was forced to intervene in the ninth round.
Having dominated the only exchanges, in which Sky judges Jonny Nelson and Glenn McCrory each had Warrington ahead in their respective scorecards, the passionate Leeds United and Rhinos fan raised the roof in the latter part of round eight and again in round nine, as he knocked Hyland to the canvas.
It had been no less than the crowd deserved, who had long been chanting for Warrington in an undercard that featured several Yorkshire-based fighters. Assisted to the ring by United captain Sol Bamba, 25-year-old Warrington had the crowd on their feet before even having to throw a punch, coming out to fans favourite ‘Marching On Together’ and Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘I Predict a Riot’.
If Warrington needed the added encouragement, then the raucous support from the crowd provided just that as he mixed his destructive work-rate with some punishing combinations against his opponent.
Hyland, 32, had missed the 122lbs weight limit the previous day despite being given extra time to prove himself, and as a result Warrington’s WBC International title was not on the line, though due to the boxing regulations the Leeds lad still had to defend his belt.
Knowing that a world title shot would be the likely outcome of an emphatic win, Warrington, who is a dentist practitioner, will now face either Selby or Carl Frampton later in the year, the latter becoming a two-weight world champion after claiming the WBA Featherweight title hours later in New York.
And though some would still raise doubts over Warrington’s ability to go toe-to-toe in the ring with the duo, he is adamant he has what it takes to beat Selby or whoever comes his way in a world title fight.
“If Selby wants it, he can have it,” he said. “But he isn’t the only route and we have many options available. If I’ve got to take the fans to Cardiff or to New York then I will, they’ll come.
“It’s always added pressure to win, keep winning in front of my fans, but it’s always very pleasing when I do it with a performance like that. It was an accomplished performance. Hyland is a tough man who hits hard and I had to keep my hands up and be aware of what he was throwing. I listened to my corner in between rounds and, in the end, we got the result.”
And whilst Warrington may be more than happy to challenge for a title anywhere around the world, his promoter Hearn is licking his lips at the thought of another sold-out event in Leeds, perhaps at Elland Round which has long been the desired venue for the showdown with Selby.
He said: “I believe he’s got the best fan-base in the United Kingdom. If it happens, it happens in Leeds. I’m telling you, Josh Warrington is ready for a world title.”
After months of hard-work, Warrington can now enjoy some time away from the gym as he is set to marry fiancée Natasha Lynch in the next few weeks.
Earlier in the evening, Hull’s Luke Campbell MBE came through a tricky tie against ex-world champion Argenis Mendez of the Dominican Republic, outscoring his opponent via a comprehensive unanimous points decision.
Having been knocked down early in the second round, the Olympic gold medallist responded well, controlling the rest of the bout as he added the vacant WBC Silver Lightweight title to his Commonwealth belt.
His opponent came with a respectable record having lost just four of his previous 29 encounters and though he was well on top in the opening rounds, he barely threw a bunch after the hungrier Campbell recovered from being floored.