JOSH WARRINGTON described the atmosphere at First Direct Arena on Saturday as “something else” while promoter Eddie Hearn called it “mental” and “nuts”.
“The support for Josh and boxing in Leeds is freakish,” said the head of Matchroom Boxing, deafened by a partisan home support of 10,000.
Yet Saturday’s offering against Dennis Tubieron was likely only just an aperitif with both Warrington and Hearn eyeing a world title fight with Lee Selby in front of 40,000 at Elland Road next summer.
European, Commonwealth and British featherweight champion Warrington maintined his unbeaten record with Saturday night’s unanimous victory on points against little known but plucky Fillipino challenger Tubieron. Yet the mad evening was as much about what went on outside the ring as in it.
Much of the talk in the build up to the fight had been about Warrington’s passionate Leeds United-influenced following creating a unique atmosphere – “a cauldron of passion” Hearn called it – and they didn’t disappoint. Warrington added fuel to an already raging fire by asking Leeds United legend Vinnie Jones to join him for his ring walk and the hard man looked to relish his involvement.
The duo entered the ring to Leeds United club anthem Marching On Together – and now it seems that Warrington, Hearn and his fanatical army of support are heading to a fight that would eclipse even Saturday’s craziness at First Direct Arena. As well as offering the vacant WBC international featherweight belt, Saturday’s bout was an official eliminator for the WBC featherweight title held by Gary Russell Jr who defeated long-term belt holder Jhonny González in March.
But it’s the IBF featherweight world title that Warrington first has in his sights – a title held by Russian Evgeny Gradovich who will take on Welsh star Selby on May 30. Selby is widely expected to take that crown and all roads could then lead to a 2016 summer spectacular at Elland Road.
“I’ve heard Lee Selby saying he’d come to Leeds and give me a good hiding,” said Warrington.
“I look forward to that as Elland Road can be deafening and fighting there would take me to another level still. He’d better be on his game if he wants to come to Elland Road and silence me.
“I wish Lee Selby all the best for the 30th. I think he can win the world title. Then I’d love him to come here. It would be a cracking fight. I think I’ve got what it takes to beat Lee Selby so let him get his world title and then let’s get it on.”
Warrington never looked in any bother against Tubieron while not quite winning in the style of a boxer rated a 1-100 shot by some bookmakers. The Leeds ace was awarded the win 119-109, 119-110 and 119-109 on the judges’ scorecards. Selby would be a different proposition but Warrington says there is plenty left in the locker. “I want to give massive credit to Dennis Tubieron. He is hard as nails,” said Warrington. “I’ll probably get slagged off on social media – ‘Warrington’s got no power, he should have got him out.’ But he’s a tough fighter. A couple of times I thought I had him and was going to get him out of there and full credit, he is a tough opponent. I wanted to take my time, try a few things differently. I still have plenty more to bring and I am always improving.
“I have a mandatory opponent for my European so that’s what I will look to do next, come back here and entertain these guys and get a bit more experience under my belt. I will go back to the gym and try and improve my game all round. I want to say a massive thank you to everybody who has turned out; the best crowd not just in Britain but in the world.
“With them fans behind me I’ll go all the way and win a world title. From first bell to last it was unbelievable noise.”
A simmering atmosphere suddenly exploded around ten minutes before Warrington’s ring walk when Seven Nation Army, Sweet Caroline and Jump Around were boomed out to an excited crowd. Plastic beer cups soared through the First Direct Arena like fireworks – a few even landing on stage – while in the fight itself a Leeds United beach ball landed on the canvas half way through round six.
“I’ve never seen that before, that was great – if a bit silly,” said Hearn. who is now aiming to bring Warrington back to First Direct Arena in September – most likely for the mandatory defence of his European belt. All roads could then lead to an Elland Road showdown with Selby. For now, though, Warrington is simply looking forward to a few days of well earned rest.
The multiple champion was in brilliant form in his post-fight press conference saying: “At times (in that atmosphere) the boxing went out the window. I was going at him Gipton-style. But I thought I’d give the fans some value for money. I was becoming a bit of a knock-out artist.” Asked what he would do this week to unwind and celebrate, Warrington – long term partner of girlfriend Natasha – quipped: “I might treat the Mrs and take her to Scarborough. I’ve had a good pay day so we can go to the B&B instead of a tent.”