WBC champion Gary Russell Junior is on Josh Warrington’s radar

Most boxers in Josh Warrington’s position would be left pinching themselves at the heights their careers have hit.

By Ben McKenna
Saturday, 12th October 2019, 1:00 am
Josh Warrington and Sofiane Takoucht at today's weigh in. Picture: Steve Riding.
Josh Warrington and Sofiane Takoucht at today's weigh in. Picture: Steve Riding.

The IBF featherweight champion goes into tomorrow’s title defence aiming to make it a perfect 30-0 in the professionial ranks but insists he is still not satisfied.

The ‘Leeds Warrior’ won his IBF belt at Elland Road, the home of his beloved Leeds United, in May, 2018 with a stunning performance to dethrone Lee Selby.

He followed that up with another incredible display in December, seeing off the challenge of former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton.

Gary Russell Junior.

After his split decision victory over Kid Galahad in June, Warrington had hopes of unifying the featherweight division.

The Leeds fighter was keen for contests with fellow champions Leo Santa Cruz and Oscar Valdez but those fights never came to fruition with the pair both moving up a weight class.

Warrington will put his title on the line for a third time as he faces Sofiane Takoucht – the highest available challenger on his IBF mandatory list – at the Leeds First Direct Arena this evening. But the Frenchman was not the person Warrington expected to be facing following his victory in June.

The 28-year-old insists he is only focusing on defeating Takoucht but does have his eye on a potential unification bout with WBC champion Gary Russell Junior.

Josh Warrington.

The American most recently defended his world title against Kiko Martinez in May.

“This is my third defence. But I am not satisfied, I am not happy. I don’t want to finish here, there is more to come,” said Warrington.

“For Santa Cruz, he could have still got as much publicity and as much coinage from a third fight with Carl Frampton.

“Oscar Valdez did talk about it, but when it came down to contracts, he didn’t want it. It is frustrating. Very frustrating.

“I have still got Gary Russell Junior, Can Xu has got the WBA regular title, so there are two options there.

“Shakur Stevenson fights for the WBO belt in a few weeks, if he wins that he might want his first title defence against me. It is unlikely, but if he does – I’m here.”

Russell has fought just four times since winning his WBC belt in March, 2015.

Warrington admits he does not want to “draw out” his own reign as world champion and is willing to step up a weight class to fight the likes of Santa Cruz and Oscar Valdez.

“I don’t want to draw it out, I don’t want to be conning the fans,” he said.

“You want to strike while the iron is hot, when you have got momentum behind you.

“Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of the big fights, the big occasions and the super fights? You are not a pro’ forever. Injuries happen, fighters get beaten and then all of sudden it is gone.

“Make the fights when you can. If the other fighters don’t want it this time round, and there is an option to go up to super feather to fight Valdez and Santa Cruz then I will go and do that. I can beat one of them and then come back down and take care of business at featherweight.”

Warrington has even admitted he would be interested in a potential bout with highly-rated Ukrainian Vasiliy Lomachenko. The 31-year-old holds the WBC, WBA and WBO lightweight titles and defeated Hull’s Luke Campbell at the O2 Arena in London at the end of August.

Warrington continued: “Why would you not want to share the ring with him, have a little dance with him? He has been beaten, so why not?

“I don’t want to be sat in a working men’s club when I am 40-odd and say I could have boxed Lomachenko but I didn’t want it. Let’s be part of these big nights.”