Josh Warrington in limbo as he decides whether to move on from Mauricio Lara

Repeat, redemption. Those were the words emblazoned on the banners at Headingley as Josh Warrington looked to avenge the only defeat of his professional career – but after a controversial evening the only emotions were frustration and exasperation.

Where now?: Josh Warrington cuts a disconsolate figure after his grand homecoming at Headingley ends in an anti-climatic technical draw following an accidental clash of heads. (Picture: Steve Riding)

There was no redemption to be had for the Leeds Warrior as his rematch with Mauricio Lara ended in a technical draw after referee Steve Gray waved the fight off because of a cut over the Mexican’s left eye sustained in a clash of heads in the second round. Warrington’s frustration was visible while the 20,000 supporters who had packed into Headingley made their feelings known as a night that had promised so much ended in anti-climatic fashion.

A lot of work had gone into getting the event on, after Leeds Rhinos had initially been refused a license to host the card. It was a decision unanimously made by Leeds City Council before Warrington and his team battled to overturn the ruling.

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As Warrington made his way to the ring, he admitted to feeling unstoppable, as he was roared on by his home support in the biggest boxing event in Leeds since he won the IBF featherweight title at Elland Road with a stunning win over Lee Selby.

Josh Warrington v Mauricio Lara at Headingley on Saturday September 4, 2021 (Picture: Steve Riding)

This fight meant just as much. Make no mistake, it was a career-defining night for Warrington but the result leaves him in limbo.

He admits he wants to fight Lara again and avenge his only professional defeat but that could prove difficult. The Mexican’s cut was deep and was only getting bigger as the fight was stopped.

Referee Gray fulfilled his duty of care to Lara by not letting him begin the third round. The 23-year-old, who is unbeaten in his last 12 fights, will now need time to recuperate and is unlikely to be back sparring for a number of months. Warrington is clearly keen to get one over on Lara but it may be time to move his focus elsewhere as Lara recovers. Since knocking out Sofiane Takoucht in the second round at Leeds Arena in October 2019, it has been a frustrating 23 months for Warrington.

He re-signed with promoter Eddie Hearn in early 2020 but saw his plans for a featherweight unification bout with Can Xu derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dejected: Josh Warrington after the fight was stopped (Picture: Steve Riding)

After 15 months of inactivity, he was knocked down and knocked out for the first time in his career by Lara in an empty arena. That set his ambitions back as he set his sights on a rematch with Lara with the controversial end to Saturday night’s contest only adding to Warrington’s frustration. He will now take time to decide his next move with it unlikely Lara would be ready for a third instalment within the next six months.

“I am 30-years-old and I have had seven months out, how long do I wait before he is in the gym and back training – is it another seven months?,” reflected Warrington. “When I re-signed with Eddie I was 28. By 30, I wanted to be a unified champion with a lot more zeros in the bank.

“The pandemic and then getting chinned, it has not worked out that way. For myself, mentally, I want to get that win over him but there could be a lot of waiting around. It is a decision me and my team are going to have to sit down and have a long think about it.”

Hearn wants to arrange a fight for the Leeds Warrior before the end of the year but it is unlikely Lara would be ready in time.

The referee stops the fight (Picture: Steve Riding)

Hearn is keen to see the pair go head-to-head again but Warrington might contest other fights in the interim, stating: “There are other options out there for Josh Warrington and we’ll see how quick Mauricio Lara heals up.

“I’d like to get Josh Warrington out as soon as possible, he’s fresh, he’s done two rounds tonight and I don’t know where that would be but I don’t think Lara is going to be back soon. We’d like to get Warrington out in the next two months and then that third fight would be early next year.”

Hearn was initially frustrated by the decision to wave the fight off as he added: “I had the hump because I thought Lara was looking for a way out of the fight.

“But then I went and had a look after and the cut was absolutely horrific. He wasn’t looking for a way out. I definitely got that wrong.”