A result as close as Saturday’s, so on the edge when the scorecards came, would tempt two boxers to go at it again but no-one is banging the drum for Josh Warrington-Kid Galahad II.
One of Warrington’s promotional team raised the subject of a rematch as the dust settled on fight one but only to say they would sooner give their IBF belt away than entertain Galahad again.
Galahad is a devout Muslim and a man of faith who trusts in maktub, the Arabic belief that everything in life is pre-determined and written, but destiny for him was 12 rounds of spoiling and a split-decision defeat at the end of a bout which even a mother could not love.
Warrington kept his featherweight title but looked like he had been robbed, if only of the opportunity to provide his usual value for money.
His father and trainer, Sean O’Hagan, felt compelled to remind everyone – not least himself and his son – that the result went their way, courtesy of two judges favouring Warrington and one siding with Galahad.
“We’re sat here like we’ve won a pound but lost a tenner,” said O’Hagan. “At the end of the day we got the win.”
We’re sat here like we’ve won a pound but lost a tenner.Sean O’Hagan
Warrington might conclude that it was all he was ever going to take from a contest hoisted on him by the IBF’s rankings and Galahad’s position as mandatory challenger.
Lee Selby and Carl Frampton sold themselves as opponents of Warrington’s without the need for much promotion.
The First Direct Arena was rammed on Saturday night but Warrington-Galahad is not a match-up which Frank Warren or Eddie Hearn could flog again.
Galahad promised to be awkward, an Ingle product and a switch-hitter who had evidently seen Selby and Frampton trade recklessly with Warrington and thought better of it.
He wrapped up Warrington whenever the Leeds fighter tried to unleash hell and was warned for holding in rounds six and nine without referee Phil Edwards stamping it out.
Galahad was unrepentant about his tactics. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” he said.
It was hard to deny that he was sensible in doing what Selby and Frampton had not done, or that Warrington found Galahad’s style far harder to read.
In amongst the grappling – “it was like WWF wrestling or whatever it’s called,” said O’Hagan. “With any other referee, he could have been disqualified” – there was nimble footwork and switches in stance from a boxer who spent much of the evening as a southpaw.
Counter-punches here and there, some sneaking straight through Warrington’s guard, kept him in the hunt and kept Warrington guessing about the decision.
Warrington, true to form, found another gear in what he called the “championship rounds”, the back end of the bout when every point was needed.
“You’ve got to come to a champion’s backyard and take the title,” he said as he considered the result. “You aren’t going to take the title fighting like that. We’re not saying you have to come and trade but when it turns into a scruffy fight like that, it’s not boxing.”
The old saying that styles make fights was as true as it ever is on Saturday.
Galahad has his and the prospect of a spectacle was low because of it, though neither of Warrington’s other IBF title bouts made him so uncomfortable.
There were moments in the build-up where Galahad looked lost and over his head, and the artificial feel to the dislike between them – heightened when Galahad refused a touch of gloves before the first bell – was exposed by the 29-year-old admitting afterwards that: “I don’t think we really had any kind of beef.”
Warrington had been fairly sure beforehand that the “bad man persona” was an act. Galahad’s game-plan was far more difficult to work out.
It was, in too many rounds, the sort of bout Warrington has never been built for: scrappy, niggly and devoid of any rhythm.
O’Hagan claimed that Howard Foster, the official who scored the fight against Warrington, should “never judge again” but the mess in front of Foster and his colleagues was difficult to interpret.
Warrington found his range in the fifth and landed a sweet left in the 10th, rocking Galahad as much as either boxer was ever rocked, and his left hand began scoring regularly when he needed it late on.
Prior to that, Warrington’s jab had been his only reliable weapon without wearing Galahad down to the point of being vulnerable.
Warrington predicted that he would win by stoppage but Galahad not gone 26 fights unbeaten or climbed to the top of the IBF’s rankings by chance.
He was merely, on paper and in reality, an opponent with very little appeal. O’Hagan said the attrition had made him realise why Ricky Hatton, someone with Warrington’s appetite for a tear-up, had been so reluctant to take on an awkward exponent in Junior Witter.
Warrington made a rod for his own back in 2018 by leaving many who watched his takedowns of Selby and Frampton incredulous.
“There were high expectations after the last two performance but they’re not always going to be fight of the year,” he said.
“Everyone builds it up and thinks it’s going to be a war but Galahad wants to spoil and he wants to hold. I didn’t want to sell it as a scrappy fight but I knew it was going to be like that.”
It will not be repeated unless a governing body’s rankings insist on it and even then Warrington can see that his time mixing with the best UK featherweights is done.
Galahad might think he made a point to those who questioned whether he and Warrington should be sharing a ring but he is the same Barry Awad as he was before a punch was thrown: hard to market and blessed with no obvious next move. Where would he go from here, he was asked. “I don’t really know.”
Warrington is clear about his preferred destination and will take nothing from Warren other than a unification bout in the USA.
Saturday was a fight he did not want and did not enjoy but a fight he needed to win and did. The flat tone of his voice afterwards, the tone of a boxer who prefers to look good, will quickly give way to anticipation about the door it should open.
“There’s no-one left for me over here,” said Warrington.
Of that there is no doubt.