Mentally strong Josh Warrington promises to be a sharper fighter in Mauricio Lara return
What a difference 12 years makes.
Josh Warrington turned professional in October 2009 at the age of 18. As his fame and following grew and grew, he would capture British, Commonwealth and European featherweight championships. The Leeds star then made the transition to the world scene, annexed the IBF 126-pound title, in May 2018, and made a string of lucrative defenses. He was the No. 1 featherweight in the world.
On February 13, 2021, at the Wembley Arena in London, Warrington found himself on the end of a sensational upset TKO loss to the then-unheralded Mexican puncher Mauricio Lara. Warrington was floored heavily in the fourth round and struggled to regain his equilibrium and his senses before being brutally stopped in the ninth.
Over a decade as a winner and suddenly you’re looking up at the lights. In terms of sports, there could scarcely be a bigger shock to the system.
“For a while it didn’t bother me because I had so many physical injuries (shoulder and mouth damage) and that was a distraction to the mental side of it,” said Warrington (30-1, 7 KOs) during a Zoom call with assembled media on Tuesday. “But once I’d recovered, I was like, ‘Shit, what’s happened? I was number one in the world with Ring Magazine, and all of a sudden it’s come crashing down.’
“But then my mindset became, ‘Do something about it! You’re in control of your own destiny, so do something about it!’ For a few weeks my head was up my arse and I was a little bit down, but I had a word with myself and I was alright.”
On Saturday, Warrington, who is now rated No. 5 by The Ring at featherweight, will face Lara in a rematch at Headingly Stadium in Leeds in a 12-round bout that will be streamed live by DAZN. He looks to be in excellent fighting shape and is in a much better place mentally.
Prior to the first fight, Warrington had relinquished his world title; he’d been frustrated by the cancellation of a bout with Can Xu – which would have been for the vacant Ring Magazine championship – and, due to the pandemic, he was coming off a 14-month layoff – the longest of his career by far. The Leeds Warrior was never going to be at his best on that cold night in the capital and insists that he entered the ring without his usual fire and determination.
“Get it done, go home and get on with the next one,” said Warrington of his pre-fight attitude before the first encounter. “I paid the price for that, but this time round, all of my attention, all of this camp has been about Mauricio Lara and that will be the difference on the night. The way I approach it mentally will be the difference.
“I got a little bit giddy last time and was looking for an early night, but I wasn’t too worried about what was coming back. I’m always fit, always strong, but we’ve made a few tweaks that, without giving too much of my game plan away, will help me get the victory on the night.”
In most of his recent outings Warrington has been a cerebral pressure-fighter. Lee Selby couldn’t keep him off, Carl Frampton couldn’t keep him off, and although Kid Galahad was able to defuse him for large periods, he was rarely granted the time and space he required to score consistently himself. However, Warrington’s non-stop aggression didn’t work against Lara. For the most part, his punches were like tennis balls off a tank, whereas the visitor’s power shots were hugely damaging.
Warrington is the more polished boxer here, so will he seek to implement a more technical approach in the sequel?
“Not so much technical,” countered Warrington immediately. “I’ll just be more aware of what’s coming at me, and I’ll be aware of what I’m throwing as well. I’ll be sharper.
“Over the last few years I’ve been such a dominant force physically. I’ve taken people’s souls early – Selby, Frampton. The Frampton fight was more or less done after two rounds, but that approach can’t last. With fighters I’ve known about – who are feared – I’m wary, but with Lara I wasn’t. I didn’t give a fuck, and I paid the price for it.”
Warrington is convinced that a fully-charged version of himself can produce the turnaround he so badly needs.
Tom Gray is Managing Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing