Josh Warrington out to stop Mauricio Lara fast, dismisses Galahad, laughs off Russell, targets Xu Can
Unbeaten featherweight star Josh Warrington was accustomed to life moving at a frenetic pace.
The cerebral pressure-fighter from Leeds, England, mixed high-profile world title bouts with buying a house, getting married, having kids and taking an active role in promoting a documentary that charted his rise to fame. That’s probably why lockdown hit him like a ton of bricks. Suddenly, Warrington had down time, and while circumstances allowed him to spend precious time with his wife, Natasha, and twin girls, his terrific career momentum stalled.
“Lockdown has made me realize how much I love boxing,” Warrington (30-0, 7 knockouts) told The Ring. “I can’t wait to get back in there. All throughout lockdown I’ve been in the gym. I have a gym a mile away from my house, it’s my gym, and I can go in there and just close the doors.
“But it was difficult at times, around September and October, when everyone else was getting out and I was one of the only big names who wasn’t. There was talk that I could get out at Christmas, then that was off and it would be 2021. You start to ask yourself if it’s ever going to happen. Anytime I started sulking over it, though, I just reminded myself that there are people a lot worse off than me.”
On Saturday, following a 17-month layoff, The Ring’s No. 1 rated featherweight will be back in action against the unheralded Mauricio Lara (21-2, 14 KOs) of Mexico. Providing he can come through this 10-round non-title affair at the Wembley Arena in London, Warrington will be hoping to re-establish the buzz that surrounded him following wins over top players such as Lee Selby, Carl Frampton and Kid Galahad.
A fight against Xu Can, who is rated No. 3 by The Ring, has been on Warrington’s radar for some time. The initial idea was for the matchup to be a unification contest with Warrington putting his IBF title on the line along with Xu’s WBA belt. However, because Xu holds the WBA “regular” distinction (Leo Santa Cruz is full WBA titleholder), the IBF refused to sanction the contest as a unification bout and insisted that Warrington fullfil a mandatory obligation against Galahad. As a result, Warrington vacated the title and is now targeting The Ring Magazine championship at 126 pounds.
In June 2019, Warrington came through an extremely arduous, frustrating and un-entertaining engagement with Galahad. He retained the IBF title for the second time, on a split decision, but there were those who felt that Galahad, a crafty and talented southpaw, deserved the nod. The now former titleholder disagrees and feels that there’s very little need for a sequel.
“I’m not going to be dictated to by one organization,” said Warrington. “I want to win multiple belts, multiple titles. Listen, if I go in there and get knocked the fuck out by Xu Can or Gary Russell Jr., whoever, at least I’ll be content because I went in there. I’m not saying that winning these fights is a given. I know I’ve got to work hard, train hard, throw the punches, but when these fighters are there, you need to match up. Otherwise you end up like Amir Khan and Kell Brook – all you have is questions about what might have been.
“Prior to [Galahad] throwing his toys out the [crib] and getting legal teams involved, my plan was to box Xu Can, win more titles, then go from there. If we couldn’t walk into another world title fight, then I’d take care of my mandatory. People seem to forget that I’ve beaten him. It wasn’t even my best day at the office and I still beat him. He spoiled as much as he could, he got away with a lot in the fight, and a stricter referee would have deducted points. He got two warning in the first two rounds and nothing after that.
“We could have done it again, and I’d have beaten him for the fourth time (Warrington beat Galahad twice as an amateur). I’m on a different course now, and I don’t think I’d want to give him the payday. I find the fight irrelevant and I’m on a schedule. I want Xu Can, Gary Russell, then maybe [Emanuel] Navarrete. All these big names like [Leo] Santa Cruz, [Oscar] Valdez, they’re not going to be around forever. Why do I want to go over old ground against someone like that? The only time he’s relevant is when he’s on Twitter shouting my name. You can’t imagine him fighting big fights against the other big names, all he does is cause drama on social media. Ideally, I wouldn’t want to fight him again.”
Galahad, who is rated No. 4 by The Ring at featherweight, will meet Jazza Dickens, a fighter he stopped seven years ago, for the vacant IBF title on a date to be confirmed.
The other world-class operator that Warrington is frequently mentioned alongside is Russell, the reigning WBC titleholder, who is rated No. 2 by The Ring. Recently, the quick-fisted 32-year-old from Capitol Heights told Kenneth Bouhairie and Michael Rosenthal, on a PBC podcast, that a $1 million offer to face Warrington, made by Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn, was beneath him.
“He’s not worth two-bob, is he?” said Warrington, laughing hysterically. “He’s not a household name over here, he’s not a household name in the States. People like him, they all want Floyd Mayweather paydays, but they forget that Floyd did the hard work in the early stages of [his] career. Floyd became a household name, but that didn’t happen overnight. He did all that work with HBO 24/7 after beating big names. These guys want the ‘Money’ Mayweather paydays, but they’re not willing to be ‘Pretty Boy.’
“If people knew what I got paid for the Lee Selby fight they’d laugh, but you just do it because you know what’s on the other side. That’s why I question these fighters in terms of their desire and hunger. Russell is out once a year, and he’s been able to hold on to that belt for the last five years. Is he going to be satisfied with his career? If it wasn’t for me being a big fighter over here, who else is he going to fight for more money?”
Warrington makes a salient point regarding Russell. The American has speed to burn, terrific skills and he’s very highly touted. The problem is that he talks a lot more than he fights. Given that his activity was ridiculously low pre-pandemic, one would assume that he’d be eager to stay significant in a world where plans can change in an instant. For obvious reasons, big fight cancellations have been at a record-high since early last year, and COVID-19 restrictions have made the boxing world very unpredictable.
Regardless, Warrington isn’t waiting around.
“I’m under the impression that if I come through Lara, then [the Xu Can fight] can be made very quickly,” he said. “That’s why there’s a bit of pressure with this fight, but at the same time you can’t get distracted by the dangling carrot. You don’t want to pick up any injuries, but you’re constantly arguing with yourself because you need to stay focused on the next opponent. Normally it wouldn’t matter if you break your hand, as long as you win.
“But I’ll be fucking wild out there from the first bell; throwing blows, left, right and center. Everyone will be excited to have me back because there’s been some explosive performances over the last few years: Selby, Frampton, [Sofiane] Takoucht. But there is a bit of pressure to keep people excited after having had such a long time out of the ring. I need to stay focused and make sure that I do what I’ve got to do. It might take a few rounds to get into it, but the way I’ve been sparring, the way I’ve been training, I’m really sharp. Last time out I had an early night (Takoucht TKO 2) and I like those early nights. I’m feeling stronger than ever now. With age has come more strength, and I’m pretty confident in my punching power. If the opportunity [for an early finish] arises, then I’ll take it.”
Warrington-Lara, plus undercard action, will be televised by DAZN in the U.S. and Sky Sports in the U.K.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for The Ring. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing