IN THE war of words leading up to Saturday night’s world title fight, Leeds featherweight Josh Warrington can well remember one remark made by defending champion Lee Selby at a press conference in January.
“Your head will be bopping back and forth all night,” teased Selby. “You’ll look like Noddy.”
Yet after the boxing world nodded in approval of a new world champion, Warrington said the manner of Saturday night’s stunning victory was part of a plan to “rip” the title off the Welshman by “ruffling feathers” in the opening rounds.
Warrington is settling into life as his city’s first ever professional boxing world champion after a superb performance in the IBF featherweight world title showdown against defending champion Selby at a noisy Elland Road.
In the fifth defence of his title and as Britain’s longest reigning world champion, Barry-born Selby was an overwhelming odds-on favourite as Warrington took in by far his toughest test yet but the unbeaten Leeds fighter tore into his opponent from the very first bell in the 27th fight of his career.
Selby was left with blood streaming from above his left eye midway through the second round with Warrington then opening a cut above the Welshman’s opposite eye in round five.
Whilst the belt holder attempted to rally and landed some decent blows, Warrington continued to box at a frenetic pace throughout and Selby was left needing a knock-out in the last few rounds to stand any chance of defending his title.
With just two victories achieved by knock-out in the 26 fights of his professional career, that never looked likely and Warrington raised his fists to the air in celebration of an incredible victory even before the judges’ scorecards following the final bell. Warrington was indeed crowned the new IBF featherweight champion of the world on points and the only mystery concerned the scoring of Canadian judge Alan Davis who somehow had the fight 115-113 in favour of Selby.
But judges Phil Edwards and Frank Lombardi saw sense and quite rightly scored the contest in favour of the Yorkshireman with verdicts of 116-112 and 115-113 meaning Warrington was deservedly crowned IBF world champion amid wild scenes at Elland Road. After months of bitterness in the build-up to the fight, there appeared a new-found respect between the duo after the final bell and the pair are now unlikely to meet again with Selby set to step up in weight after a break this summer.
That said, the Welshman was clearly unhappy with the circumstances surrounding his early downfall in the second round with the 31-year-old complaining to referee Michael Alexander about a clash of heads. Warrington, though, revealed that his tactics and the manner of his victory were down to being ahead of the game in terms of planning as Selby’s comments about Noddy came back to bite the Welshman.
Yes, I was in my own back yard, yes, I had a hell of a support but I was a massive underdog and everyone was expecting Lee to come out and play with me.Josh Warrington
“If you are fighting the champion, you have got to go and rip the title off them,” said Warrington. “Yes, I was in my own back yard, yes, I had a hell of a support but I was a massive underdog and everyone was expecting Lee to come out and play with me.
“As he said himself, he was going to have my head bouncing up and down like Noddy but I took the fight to him straight away and I think it ruffled his feathers a little bit and it just ruined his gameplan.”
Warrington appeared a man on the mission from the very first bell and the breathless pace set by the Yorkshireman sent an already excited home crowd wild.
It became clear as blood began to pour down Selby’s face in the second round that Warrington could be on to a winner and while Selby possibly edged the middle few rounds, the damage caused by Warrington in the opening rounds proved the foundation for victory. Asked about the cuts caused to Selby and the manner of them, Warrington admitted: “It seemed to bother him.
“I caught him with a couple of clean shots in the first couple of rounds and I think from then on he was annoyed.
“We worked on it and he drops his shoulder so we went to go over his shoulder and catch him out with a right hand over the top.
“Michael Alexander came into the changing room beforehand and he said no punches to the back of the head but I was hitting him on the side and he kept on complaining.
“I knew from about three or four rounds in that he didn’t like that, that it was causing him discomfort and he complained about that throughout the fight.”
In fairness, Selby then took to social media yesterday morning to wish his Saturday night conqueror all the best for the future as the Welshman planned for a future at a new weight.
Warrington, meanwhile, proudly sat with his new IBF featherweight world championship belt at his post-match press conference, admitted he was looking forward to unwinding with a pint of Guinness and a fry up, when time allowed in between being a young parent alongside wife Natasha to the couple’s 12-week-old twin girls.
Life is sweet for Leeds’ first ever world champion though there looked set to be a slight hitch in store when the Yorkshireman planned to relive his victory through a recording of BT Sport’s live coverage back at home. Asked when he would be watching the fight back, Warrington smiled: “I will get myself a fry up on or a Shepherd’s Pie on my lap and then put it on.”
Turning to his wife, the new world champ’ asked: “Did you put it on record?”, to which the reply was “No! I was going to do it this morning but I forgot.”
Not that it matters, with Saturday’s sensational victory forever etched in the memory and impossible to forget.