How Josh Warrington clash of heads in boxing match spared Leeds Rhinos sanctions

Headingley’s rugby ground would have broken strict licensing rules if a Josh Warrington boxing fight there last year had lasted the full 12 rounds, it’s emerged.

By David Spereall, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 13th July 2022, 12:20 pm

Leeds Rhinos bosses admitted an 11pm curfew, imposed by Leeds City Council to protect neighbours, would have been breached because the earlier undercard bouts all unexpectedly went the distance, on September 4.

But on the night Warrington’s rematch with Mexican Mauricio Lara was cut short by an accidental clash of heads in the second round, at around 10.45pm.

The freak incident potentially spared the rugby league club sanctions from the local authorities.

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Josh Warrington v Mauricio Lara at Headingley, last year.

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It comes as Rhinos’ neighbours are fighting its bid to host more boxing and music events in future, following noise issues and drunken behaviour by supporters leaving the ground after the Warrington fight.

One local resident told a public hearing on Tuesday that “no-one signed up to live nextdoor to a boxing venue.”

Rhinos admitted they got their noise management “wrong” last year, but have learnt lessons and are working to prevent a repeat.

Sue Ward, Leeds Rhinos’ operations manager, said the close shave with the curfew was partly because club officials were “new to boxing”.

She told the hearing: “Naively we assumed, and we were told by (boxing promoters) Matchroom, that not all fights will go the full 12 rounds.

“There will be some fights where there will be a clear knockout and they won’t last very long.

“Every fight went full length expect for the Warrington match. So Matchroom were right, but it was just to the wire.

“We would have breached the licence if that fight would have continued.”

Ms Ward said in future so-called “filler” fights on the undercard would be pulled if it appeared the curfew was in danger of being broken.

The hearing was told that Rhinos “hope” Warrington fights at Headingley again, although no new bouts have been pencilled in yet.

But objectors accused the club of repeatedly breaking promises over noise mitigation and claimed disturbances from the rugby ground were increasingly disruptive.

One neighbour, Richard Parr, said: “Any resident will say five years ago there’s a rugby match that’s not that loud – it’s just the crowd and the odd tannoy .

“That’s completely different to the situation we have now, which is live music and entertainment quite often prior to the rugby match.

“Nobody signed up to live nextdoor to a music venue or an open air boxing venue. It’s a completely different kettle of fish.”

Ms Ward promised the club would pay for an enhanced police presence at future events if the licence was granted, to crack down on anti-social behaviour.

She explained the PA system had been too loud during the Warrington fight because it had been operated by the promoters, which she insisted would not happen again.

She told councillors: “There’s so much we’ve learnt from the previous event that won’t be taken for granted.”

All parties were told the council’s decision on whether to grant the new licence would be revealed in writing in the coming days.