Josh Warrington believes victory over Carl Frampton in Manchester next week would secure his reputation as a world-class fighter and silence those who dismissed him as a “ticket-seller”.
The Leeds featherweight admitted to being bemused by UK rankings which rate Frampton as number one at nine stone despite Warrington claiming the IBF title with a points win over Lee Selby at Elland Road in May.
Warrington is attempting to scalp both of his major rivals in the division in the space of seven months and said a 28th career victory against Belfast’s Frampton a week on Saturday is necessary to “cement” him as the top featherweight in the country.
Frampton is a former two-weight world champion whose career to date peaked with a win against Mexico’s Leo Santa Cruz in New York in 2016, a result which earned him the WBA’s belt. The 31-year-old, however, has been without a world title since losing a rematch to Santa Cruz in January 2017, his only defeat in 27 bouts.
Unbeaten Warrington said he had agreed to make his first IBF defence against Frampton in a bid to dispel the belief that Frampton is in a class above him.
“I do feel a little bit like that,” Warrington said. “The board have got him ranked number one and me a place behind him, even though I’m world champion. ‘Carl’s another level above’. That’s what they think.
“We could have taken an easier fight than this. We could have gone to the Arena (in Leeds) and had a steady one but you look down the list of IBF fighters and think ‘how are they even in the top 15?’. We’re not about fights like that.
“Now we’ve got to this level we want the big ones. After this I’m not thinking ‘I want a steady defence next year’. I want the unification fights. I want (WBO champion) Oscar Valdez, to go over to the States and do it there. I want the fights that keep you up at night because that’s what brings the best out of me.”
Warrington and Frampton will meet at Manchester Arena on December 22 in what is widely expected to be one of the fights of the year. Warrington’s 12-round win over Selby fell into that category after a bloody scrap in front of almost 20,000 at Elland Road ended in a split decision in Warrington’s favour.
Warrington, 28, was unfancied against Selby but dominated the Welshman from the opening round, cutting him early on and punishing him through the later stages. A badly-beaten Selby announced the following day that he was moving up a division, saying he had struggled to make the nine-stone featherweight limit.
“Over the years I’ve put a few people on their toes,” Warrington said. “Not to be cocky because that’s not my character but when people have said ‘I didn’t fancy you against Selby’ I tell them I appreciate their honesty and I ask ‘why not?’. Are you saying I had no chance whatsoever when it’s a two-horse race? I was unbeaten before that fight and I’m still unbeaten now. All I’d say was ‘name me a fighter Selby’s beaten who I wouldn’t beat as well’.
“There’s no-one and when it comes round to it, people didn’t have an answer to that.”
Warrington and Frampton have both attracted large followings – Frampton helped draw 20,000 to Manchester Arena when he out-pointed Scott Quigg there in 2016 – but Warrington claimed his own popularity had overshadowed his ability.
“For a long time I was stereotyped as a ticket-seller,” he said. “You hear what get’s said – ‘he’ll get found at this level’ – but then we get to this level, we come through it and no-one knows what to say. Carl’s next and I feel like this one will cement us.”