Josh Warrington regains IBF 126-pound title, drops and stops Kiko Martinez in seven
The city of Leeds, England, is in full-on party mode.
In a bloody battle, local hero Josh Warrington regained the IBF featherweight title by posting a seventh-round stoppage over Spanish warrior Kiko Martinez at the First Direct Arena on Saturday. The official time was 2:12.
Warrington, who is currently rated No. 6 by The Ring at 126 pounds, floored Martinez with a massive right hook in the opening round, controlled the majority of the bout, and closed out in style with a furious and sustained assault in the seventh.
“It wasn’t just for me, it wasn’t just for my wife and my kids, it was for [my home support],” said an emotional Warrington (31-1-1, 8 KOs) in his post-fight interview with DAZN. “I know I’m not (promoter) Eddie Hearn’s favorite cup of tea, but when I’m on it and [these fans come] out, he knows there’s nothing like it in the fuckin world.”
A clash of heads cut Martinez over the left eye in Round 1 and Warrington compounded his opponent’s problems with a huge right hand knockdown. The visitor rose gamely, but Warrington went wild with a follow up assault and wasn’t far away from securing a sensational first-round stoppage.
The mayhem continued in Round 2 with Warrington scoring solidly with multiple power shots to head and body. Martinez, habitually durable, refused to fall, but he was under terrible pressure and didn’t have the time or the positioning to respond during these frenzied assaults.
Following the chaotic opening, Warrington dropped the pace slightly and relied on his boxing skills. Martinez, who suffered another cut to the right eye following an exchange, landed the odd single shot but had nothing resembling a foothold. He absorbed another blazing flurry from the home fighter in the fifth.
Things were going from bad to worse and another cut soon opened up on Martinez’s forehead.
In the seventh, Warrington was spraying the target with shots when he suddenly absorbed a big right from Martinez. It was the champion’s best punch of the fight, but all it did was anger Warrington, who went on the offensive with a furious barrage. There was next to nothing coming back and referee Marcus McDonnell dutifully called a halt to the action.
Warrington won the IBF featherweight title, in May 2018, and made three successful defenses. He established himself as the No. 1 fighter in the division with wins over Lee Selby, Carl Frampton and Kid Galahad. However, an extended layoff, due to the pandemic, hurt his momentum, then his luck changed dramatically. The Englishman was brutally knocked out by Mexican power-puncher Mauricio Lara, in February 2021, and the rematch was ruled a two-round technical draw when Lara was cut following a clash of heads.
This win and the world title that goes with it injects new life into the affable Englishman’s career.
Martinez (43-11-2, 30 KOs), 36, was considered over the hill seven years ago, but he made a welcome return to top level last November. The affable Spaniard scored a spectacular sixth-round knockout over the previously unbeaten Kid Galahad to become a two-weight world titleholder. He could have taken an easier assignment than Warrington, but fighting the best – away from home – is what makes him tick.
Tom Gray is managing editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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