JOSH WARRINGTON warned Lee Selby that his IBF belt was staying in Leeds while Selby claimed “the whole country’s backing me” as the pair faced off at their final press conference before Saturday’s world-title fight.
Warrington and Selby steered clear of controversy but aimed a few last barbs at each other as reigning champion Selby faced down a hostile reception at Elland Road this afternoon.
The Welshman was jeered and taunted by supporters of Warrington, who will make his first bid to become world champion on his 27th professional outing this weekend.
Warrington and Selby have been at odds for the past two years after initial talk of an all-British clash between them fell through and Warrington, the IBF’s mandatory challenger, said he was looking forward to “getting to punch him in the face for discrediting me.”
The 27-year-old - aiming to become Leeds’ first boxing world champion - will have a crowd of more than 20,000 behind him as Elland Road stages the biggest bout seen in the city for years.
Warrington said: “I’m relaxed. We had a bit of fun at the last press conference but I don’t really need to say no more.
“For the last few months I’ve put my body through hell, constantly thinking that this is what it’s leading up to after all the years and all the talk of me and Lee potentially fighting. Now I just want to get in the ring and do the business.
“I’m ready to go. I don’t feel there’s any need for any bad talking. On Saturday I get to punch him in the face then. I’ve been written off ever since I won the British title. Every fight since then it’s been ‘Warrington’s going to get found out’ but no matter what happens after Saturday night, I’ll be there in the history books asa Leeds’ first world champion.
“It’s him I get to punch in the face after discrediting me. Once it comes here, that world title’s staying here.”
Selby dismissed the idea that he was entering “a lion’s den” by agreeing to defend his featherweight title in Warrington’s city and at Leeds United’s stadium. “I think the support’s irrelevant,” Selby said. “It’s just another defence to me. It’s just another fight.”
For the last few months I’ve put my body through hell, constantly thinking that this is what it’s leading up to after all the years and all the talk of me and Lee potentially fighting.Josh Warrington
Responding to some of Warrington’s comments, Selby claimed that the bulk of public support would be behind him at the weekend despite the size of the crowd turning out.
“I’m not going to instigate an argument like you usually do,” Selby said. “No chance. I’m a humble guy.
“You saw in the first press conference he was running his mouth off. The guys in Leeds want you to win but the whole country’s backing me and hoping I win.
“You see it any time Box Nation or Frank Warren tweets or does something on Instagram. You see all the abuse you get.”
Warrington replied: “It’s funny all those boys outside Leeds who don’t want me to win. No-one likes Leeds and we love it.”
Selby, who has lost only once in 27 fights, has held the IBF title since defeating Russia’s Evgeny Gradovich in 2015. Saturday’s defence is his fifth having successful retained the belt twice last year.
He and Warrington will take part in open work-out sessions at Leeds Trinity tomorrow before meeting again at Friday’s weigh-in. Promoter Frank Warren revealed that 22,000 tickets have been sold for Elland Road.
Warrington’s father and trainer, Sean O’Hagan, attempted to diffuse the tension which developed between Selby and the gathering at Elland Road today.
“For all we do appreciate the support, we want to show Lee a little bit of respect,” he said. “He’s world champion, he’s coming here and giving us an opportunity. A bit of banter’s okay but let’s not get too silly. Let’s keep it right.”