'My name doesn't get the respect it deserves' - Josh Warrington sounds warning to Alberto Lopez ahead of IBF title defence in Leeds
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A broken jaw and a damaged hand sustained in that bout have delayed the Leeds Warrior’s return to the ring.
The 32-year-old had hoped for a unification fight away from Leeds after that triumph but a lack of options means he has been sanctioned to defend his title against Mexican-born Lopez.
Warrington’s victory over Martinez was his first since October 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic ended plans for a featherweight unification with then WBA champion Can Xu.
After a 15-month lay-off, Warrington made his return against Mauricio Lara as he was knocked out in an empty Wembley Arena for the first and only defeat of his professional career. In a rematch with Lara, who also hails from Mexico, the fight was ruled as a technical draw after two rounds as a cut above Lara’s eye left him unable to continue.
Lopez has won 15 of his 26 professional bouts via knockout but has only fought in one 12-rounder. However, that was over inside seven rounds as he beat Isaac Lowe 12 months ago in London.
“He’s full of confidence isn’t he,” said Warrington of his opponent. “He’s like a kid on whizz walking around like Ric Flair. He’s going to be full of confidence.
"He’s blasted out a few guys over in the States and in Mexico but I’m not them guys.
"I’ve been in this position all throughout my career. I wasn’t meant to get this position. I wasn’t meant to win a European title, I wasn’t meant to get a world title. I’ve always been an underdog. Any fight at this level is always going to be a hard fight because he’s got himself into a mandatory position.
"He’s beaten some decent guys along the way but I just don’t think he’s mixed in the same level that I’ve been in with. He’s certainly not had a fight like me.”
Although Warrington – and many of his loyal fans – wanted to travel out of the city for his next contest, he plans to feed off the atmosphere in a raucous Leeds Arena.
Warrington continued: "He’s coming into the lion’s den. They can’t be in the ring with me, but it’s a hell of an atmosphere!
"I feed off that energy. Once I walk out into that arena I’m a man possessed and do what I have to do to keep hold of that belt. I’ve been around haven’t I.
"A lot of these young fighters are going to be full of confidence. They’re going to be excited. I think they forget, sometimes, my name doesn’t get the respect it deserves. I’m not asking for it but I’ve been in with challengers all throughout my career. I’ve just got to concentrate on what I do best and I believe it will be enough to get me a win on Saturday night.”
Tonight’s card will feature a number of younger fighters from Leeds and across Yorkshire – including Hopey Price, Cory O’Regan and Junaid Bostan. There is also an all-White Rose clash between Koby McNamara and Nabil Ahmed.
Warrington added: “That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do – put Leeds boxing on the map and give these younger fighters opportunities.”
Price – who is 8-0 – faces Jonathan Santana of Spain and is hoping to make it nine professional fights unbeaten ahead of a big year in 2023.
“It’s the final box to tick before a big 2023. I think this is my last 8 rounder,” said Price.
"I’m looking to put on another statement performance on Saturday night and then I’m coming for all of the titles in the super-bantamweight division in 2023.
"I wanted to be boxing for a title this time but obviously we had a bit of activity and whatever else. Get this one out of the way and then in 2023 I’m definitely coming for those belts.
"I think I’m the best super-bantamweight in Britain – 100 per cent. Josh has paved the way for us in Leeds. When he goes, who’s next?
"I believe it’s me. I believe I’m the next one to carry the flag for boxing in Leeds.”
Heckmondwike’s O’Regan is also 8-0 and was on the undercard in March when Warrington won his IBF title against Martinez.
“I was fortunate enough to be on in March as well when Josh won his world title back,” said the 27-year-old. “The experience is what you’d imagine – it’s the best stage to be on. I’m just proud to be a part of it again. I’m looking forward to putting another great performance on as well.”