Boxing: World champion Josh Warrington ‘dares to dream’ of belt unification and leaving a Leeds-based legacy

Josh Warrington stalks Lee Selby during their world-title fight at Elland Road Stadium in May. PIC: Steve Riding
Josh Warrington stalks Lee Selby during their world-title fight at Elland Road Stadium in May. PIC: Steve Riding
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JOSH Warrington has already created boxing history for the city of Leeds.

May’s defeat of then IBF featherweight belt holder Lee Selby saw the 27-year-old become his city’s first ever male professional boxing world champion.

Josh Warrington (left) and next opponent Carl Frampton square up to each other. PIC: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Josh Warrington (left) and next opponent Carl Frampton square up to each other. PIC: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Defending that proudly-held belt against former dual-weight world champion Carl Frampton at Manchester Arena on December 22 is the next assignment for the Leeds-born fighter who remains unbeaten having made enormous strides since turning professional back in 2009.

Longer term, the Leeds warrior has designs on unifying the featherweight division, admitting the likes of Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russell Jr and Oscar Valdez are already on his radar.

Become undisputed featherweight world champion, conquer the United States and eventually make a glorious retirement to reflect on past glories with wife Natasha and his twin baby girls would be about perfect in Warrington’s eyes.

As would the continuation of more success for Leeds boxing with the Rookwood-raised fighter proud to put Leeds back on the boxing map and hoping a “new wave” of talent, including the likes of English middleweight champion Reece Cartwright and unbeaten super bantamweight Jack Bateson, can follow his lead.

Lee Selby (left) feels the full weight of Josh Warrington's punching. PIC: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Lee Selby (left) feels the full weight of Josh Warrington's punching. PIC: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

“I have said for many years that with Leeds boxing, I buzz off the city doing well in terms of boxing,” Warrington told the YEP. “When I turned pro’ I had probably missed the episode of Henry Wharton and all these fighters. I missed all them.

“Leeds had some good fighting names and when I turned pro’ you had Carl Johnanneson and Derek Roche and Crawford Ashley who was actually probably coming to his retirement.

“I often said that I wanted to put Leeds back on the boxing map and bring back all these nice, big glory days and these big boxing nights if we can.

“We have had the likes of Carl and now the new wave is coming. I think I am at the front of that and you have got the likes of Reece and Jack Bateson and those fighters coming through.

Josh Warrington - world champion and Leeds United fan. PIC: Simon Hulme

Josh Warrington - world champion and Leeds United fan. PIC: Simon Hulme

“It’s buzzing, it’s only good for the city and we are a big city as well. We have got a big boxing fan base, we have got some great gyms in there and I am hoping there are more who can really use what I have done as a motivation.

“I am proud to come from the LS9 estate and to have gone right up to the top of the tree and win a world title so why can’t they do it? It’s only about believing and giving everything that you do 100 per cent.”

That approach has led to dedicated Warrington becoming a world champion though the 27-year-old admits December’s first defence of his title against Frampton could be viewed as his toughest test yet, even allowing for his stunning defeat of Selby.

“In terms of a name, is he as good as Lee Selby? I don’t know,” reasoned Warrington.

“But he’s certainly a bigger profile – a two-weight world champion and Ring Magazine fighter of the year. He has a hell of a fan base, he’s world renowned and if you beat Carl then you have taken two of the biggest scalps in featherweight boxing. Hopefully that will put me on to being a world name then.”

That – says Warrington – would then naturally lead to fights with the likes of Russell Jr, Santa Cruz and Valdez – huge global names but boxers who the Leeds man is confident of ultimately defeating.

“Definitely. Why not?” said Warrington. “When we won the European title I kind of kept on thinking to myself, ‘wow, world level is in touching distance, why can’t we dare to dream?’.

“No-one ever thought we would get that far when I talked about being a world champion and it was almost talked about – ‘Josh won’t be a world champion’. So why can’t I dare to dream to go on even farther and unify the division?

“When I came out of the fight against Lee Selby I thought to myself ‘I am not out of second gear and I have got so much more to give’. I have got that kind of mind-set now and I believe that I would beat any of the featherweights.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they are going to be easy fights, they are all great champions but I think I am more than capable of beating them and I still don’t think I have found my best.

“Let’s get December 22 out of the way and then in my head my long-term plan is to go on and unify the division as I do think there is definitely another title in there somewhere.

“I like winning and I like winning world titles.”

BUY TICKETS: Guarantee your seats – prices for Warrington v Frampton are from £50 to £400. Buy from Ticketmaster online or call 0844 847 8000. For more information visit www.frankwarren.com