Josh Warrington will need the performance of his career against “one of the most underestimated boxers in the country” tonight, according to ex-world champion Richie Woodhall.
Woodhall, the retired super-middleweight and BT Sport pundit, said the outcome of Warrington’s IBF featherweight bout with Lee Selby would depend on the Leeds fighter finding a way of forcing Selby to stand and trade with him over 12 rounds at Elland Road.
If Warrington can make him fight the right type of fight, I definitely think he’s got a great chance.Richie Woodhall
Selby is preparing to make his fifth defence of the title he won in 2015 this evening but will be surrounded by a hostile crowd of 20,000 in Warrington’s home city.
Woodhall, won the WBC super-middleweight crown in 1998 and will commentate on tonight’s fight, expects Selby to ride the atmosphere but admitted that “any fighter would want a crowd like that behind them.”
Warrington is aiming to become Leeds’ first ever boxing world champion but Woodhall told the YEP: “It’s going to take a monumental performance. He’ll need to produce the performance of his career and box out of his skin.
“I think Selby’s one of the most underestimated boxers in the country. He hasn’t got many knockouts on his record but that’s why other fighters underestimate him. They think they’ll walk through him eventually but ultimately they can’t. They find that he’s too good.
“Selby craves two things – time and space. When he gets those he’s in his comfort zone. Josh needs to find a way to make him hold his feet and stand and trade. He’s got to get on Selby’s chest and pin him down. If I was in Warrington’s corner I’d be talking constantly about workrate. He can’t let Selby use the ring.”
Selby has spent all week playing down the hype around tonight’s bout, one of the biggest ever staged in Leeds.
Warrington will have the most of the crowd behind him and is being joined on his ringwalk by Lucas Radebe, Leeds United’s legendary former captain.
Woodhall said the event had the potential to be memorable for the “rest of people’s lives”. “It’s set up as the sort of occasion we could be talking about for years to come,” he said. “It’s all-British, it’s a big crowd and it could be cracking fight.
“If Selby’s playing the atmosphere down then I think he’s right. He’s very experienced. If he was a first-time challenger or making a first defence then maybe it would be different but this is his sixth world title fight and his fifth defence.
“I don’t think the crowd will bother him but at the same time, you can never be sure until the fighters are in the ring. All I would say is that I’d rather a crowd of 20,000 were with me than against me. Any fighter would want a crowd like that behind them.
“It’s a potential advantage for Warrington but he’s got to remain focused on Selby, not on the atmosphere.
“If Selby finds a way to hit and move like he does at his best then my head says he’ll win on points but he’ll be pushed all the way. And if Warrington can make him fight the right type of fight, I definitely think he’s got a great chance.”