Josh Warrington handed new world title chance: Leeds Warrior to face champion Kiko Martinez at First Direct Arena in March

Leeds Warrior Josh Warrington will have the chance to regain his IBF world featherweight title on home turf in two months’ time.

By Peter Smith
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 10:27 am
Action from the first meeting between Josh Warrington, left and Kiko Martinez in 2017. Picture by James Hardisty.
Action from the first meeting between Josh Warrington, left and Kiko Martinez in 2017. Picture by James Hardisty.

Warrington will face champion Kiko Martinez at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on Saturday, March 26, Matchroom Boxing have confirmed.

Spaniard Martinez is also a former IBF super-bantamweight world champion, but lost a unanimous points decision to Warrington in Leeds in 2017.

News of the world title shot is the perfect start to 2022 for Warrington after the most turbulent 12 months of his professional career.

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Josh Warrington, left, takes on Kiko Martinez in 2017. Picture by James Hardisty.

Having made history by becoming the first man from Leeds to win a world crown, Warrington vacated the IBF belt - which he had held since May, 2018 - last January when the governing body refused to sanction a unification bout with Chinese star Can Xu.

The following month, the Leeds man - who had been out of the ring for more than a year - suffered the first loss of his career when he was stopped by Mexican Mauricio Lara in a stunning upset.

The rematch at Leeds Rhinos’ Headingley Stadium in September ended in a technical draw after two rounds, due to a cut suffered by Lara in a clash of heads.

With one victory already over the Spaniard, Warrington - who has won 30 of his 32 professional bouts - will be confident of becoming Leeds’ first two-time world champion, but at 31 he knows his next fight is a must-win.

Martinez, a 35-year-old veteran, claimed his second world title when he knocked out Sheffield’s Kid Galahad two months ago and the fight in Leeds will be his first defence.

Galahad went into the fight, in his home city, as hot favourite, but was floored by a right hook in the final seconds of round five.

He managed to beat the count and came out for the next session, but was knocked out by another right hook just seconds into the round.

The Sheffield fighter has now decided not to take up a rematch clause, so Warrington will become Martinez's next opponent.

Martinez has a record of 43 wins - 30 by knockout - in 55 professional contests, with 10 defeats and two draws.

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