JOSH Warrington has already created boxing history for the city of Leeds.
May’s defeat of then IBF featherweight belt holder Lee Selby saw the 27-year-old become his city’s first professional boxing world champion.
Defending that proudly held belt against former dual-weight world champion Carl Frampton at Manchester Arena on December 22 is the next assignment for the Leeds-born fighter who remains unbeaten having made enormous strides since turning professional back in 2009.
Longer term Warrington has designs on unifying the featherweight division, with the likes of Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russell Jr and Oscar Valdez already on his radar.
Become undisputed featherweight world champion, conquer the United States and eventually make a glorious retirement to reflect on past glories with wife Natasha and his twin baby girls would be close to perfection in Warrington’s eyes.
As would the continuation of more success for Leeds boxing with the Rookwood-raised fighter proud to put Leeds back on the boxing map and hoping a “new wave” of talent, including the likes of English middleweight champion Reece Cartwright and unbeaten super bantamweight Jack Bateson, can follow his lead.
“I have said for many years that, with Leeds boxing, I buzz off the city doing well in terms of boxing,” Warrington said.
“When I turned pro I had probably missed the episode of Henry Wharton and all these fighters. I missed all them.
“Leeds had some good fighting names and when I turned pro you had Carl Johnanneson and Derek Roche and Crawford Ashley who was actually probably coming to his retirement.
“I often said that I wanted to put Leeds back on the boxing map and bring back all these nice big glory days and these big boxing nights if we can.
“We have had the likes of Carl and now the new wave is coming. I think I am at the front of that and you have got the likes of Reece and Jack Bateson and them fighters coming through.
“It’s buzzing, it’s only good for the city and we are a big city as well. We have got a big boxing fan base, we have got some great gyms in there and I am hoping there are more who can really use what I have done as a motivation.
“I am proud to come from the LS9 estate and to have gone right up to the top of the tree and win a world title, so why can’t they do it? It’s only about believing and giving everything that you do 100 per cent.”
This approach has led to dedicated Warrington becoming a world champion although the 27-year-old admits December’s first defence of his title against Frampton could be viewed as his toughest test yet, even allowing for his stunning defeat of Selby.
“In terms of a name, is he as good as Lee Selby? I don’t know,” admitted Warrington.
“But he’s certainly a bigger profile – a two-weight world champion and The Ring magazine fighter of the year. He has a hell of a fan-base, he’s world renowned and if you beat Carl then you have taken two of the biggest scalps in featherweight boxing. Hopefully that will put myself onto being a world name then.”
That – says Warrington – would then naturally lead to fights with the likes of Russell Jr, Santa Cruz and Valdez – huge global names, but boxers who the Leeds man is confident of ultimately defeating.
“Definitely, why not?” said Warrington. “When we won the European title I kind of kept on thinking to myself, ‘wow, world level is in touching distance, why can’t we dare to dream?’
“No one ever thought we would get that far when I talked about being a world champion and it was almost talked about – ‘Josh won’t be a world champion’. So why can’t I dare to dream to go on even further and unify the division?
“When I came out of the fight against Lee Selby I thought to myself. ‘I am not out of second gear and I have got so much more to give’. I have got that kind of mind-set now and I believe that I would beat any of the featherweights.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they are going to be easy fights, they are all great champions, but I think I am more than capable of beating them and I still don’t think I have found my best.
“Let’s get December 22 out of the way and then in my head my long-term plan is to go on and unify the division as I do think there is definitely another title in there somewhere. I like winning and I like winning them world titles.”
Despite being defending champion, Warrington is rated the clear underdog, with Selby around 1-3 favourite. This, though, is a trend Warrington has already bucked.
“When it’s backs against the wall, I think that’s when it brings the best out of me,” he said.
“When people are doubting me and you have got a big challenge ahead of you, I think that’s when I thrive.
“Against Lee people were saying, ‘you have got not got a prayer’ and I was a massive, massive underdog and out of about 20,000 at Elland Road there were probably about 2,000 who genuinely thought I was going to win the fight.
“I knew it was going to be difficult, but I knew I was going to do it and that’s why I think it brings out the best in me – it’s like a two fingers up to those who doubted and hated on me.
“I use that as a momentum and as fire to go on and that’s what brings the best performances and I thought the fight against Selby was going to be harder than it actually was, but it turned out to just be a bit of a cruise.
“Carl is a clever fighter and I will prepare like I am fighting the very best Carl Frampton and we’ll see how the night pans out.”
Prices for tickets for Warrington v Frampton are from £50 to £400 and can be bought from Ticketmaster online or call 0844 847 8000.
For more information visit www.frankwarren.com.
A big prize awaits Warrington if he can defeat Frampton.
WBO featherweight world champion Valdez wants to fight the winner in what would be a money-spinning unification bout.
Mexican Valdez said: “I have always said that I want to fight the best. Frampton and Warrington are both big names in the sport. I’m ready to fight the winner and unify titles.”
In April, Frampton defeated Nonito Donaire to become the mandatory challenger for the WBO belt, but the next fight was unable to go ahead due to Valdez breaking his jaw in a unanimous points win over Scott Quigg. Valdez’s promoter Bob Arum expects his man to fight again in early January.
“Assuming he wins that fight, then we would put him in with the Frampton-Warrington winner. I’ve already talked to Frank Warren (promoter to both Warrington and Frampton) about that.”