Sean O’Hagan, Josh Warrington’s father and trainer, is conflicted about the merits of a fight with Kid Galahad. On one hand the point of rankings in boxing is that reigning champions fight their mandatory challengers. On the other, the doping ban served by Galahad in 2015 makes O’Hagan question how he and Warrington have come to share a ring.
Galahad has earned his chance but not O’Hagan’s respect and it is inevitable that past history will come up when the final press conference before Saturday’s IBF featherweight bout takes place in Leeds this afternoon. Warrington and Galahad have already clashed over the subject of Galahad testing positive for a steroid and Galahad’s protestations of innocence are falling on deaf ears.
“Boxing’s about fighting your mandatories so he (Galahad) is there on merit,” O’Hagan said. “But I still keep going back to this drugs thing and I don’t think it’s right that someone should come through that and get a massive pay day, especially because he and the people with him won’t hold their hands up and say ‘I did it the wrong way but now I’m doing it the right way.’
“Whatever happens on Saturday, he won’t have my respect. We’re not just going in there to beat him. We’re going in there to hurt him.”
Warrington was considered an outsider for both of his IBF wins over Lee Selby and Carl Frampton, even though he held the belt before he and Frampton tore up the Manchester Arena in December. On Saturday, at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, he is a comfortable favourite to make a successful second defence against a boxer who is stepping into deep water for the first time.
Galahad, for all the focus on a suspension which he blamed on his brother spiking his drink, is a tricky and skilful exponent whose step up in class comes on the back of 26 straight wins and various lower-level titles at super-bantamweight. Ricky Hatton warned on Tuesday that Warrington was “in with another quality fighter” and would need his “very good boxing brain” to retain his belt.
Galahad hinted at a measured approach in the last press conference he and Warrington staged, saying he was looking to “hit and not get hit”. O’Hagan specifically asked Warrington to lay some heavy punches on Frampton at an early stage of their bout before Christmas and might look for his son to do the same again on Saturday, to make Galahad worry about his power and intensity.
O’Hagan can see that the bout against Galahad has attracted a fraction of the media attention which the Selby and Frampton contests drew.
“They’ve not made so much of it this time but we certainly have,” he said. Was he speaking to Warrington about the importance of taking Galahad as seriously? “Every day. Any time he slacks off or anything like that I tell him ‘if you want your missus to go back to serving school dinners or if you want to go back to driving a 2001 registration Fiesta, carry on like this.’ He’ll get us at 100 per cent, don’t worry about that.”
Warrington had a concern about his right hand for a while after the victory over Frampton having damaged it in the 10th round of that fight. Heavy bruising and ligament damage forced Frank Warren to move the original fight date of May 4 but Warrington has completed his usual training camp without any niggles.
“We saw a surgeon and there are no worries about it going on the night or anything like that,” O’Hagan said. “He’s not even feeling it now.”
Galahad’s biggest chance against Warrington might be the element of surprise; tactics and a style which prevents Warrington from overwhelming him in the brilliant way that Selby and Frampton succumbed. O’Hagan believes a first world title shot will find Galahad out when Warrington takes him to a level he has never experienced before.
“We’re extremely confident,” O’Hagan said. “I’ve looked through the opponents we’ve beaten and I’ve looked through the opponents Barry’s beaten and I’m not being funny, he hasn’t ever mixed in this class.
“You can look a million dollars in the gym but it means nothing when you get into the ring on a night like this. We’ve been there and done it and on Saturday we’ll do it again.”
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