Las Vegas unification fight still on the agenda for Josh Warrington

FOLLOWING his ferocious defeat of Carl Frampton, Josh Warrington had the grandest of plans for the 29th fight of his career.

Josh Warrington after his victory over Carl Frampton.

MGM Grand perhaps with the Leeds world champion eyeing a bout in Las Vegas and another featherweight belt – be it that of WBO king Oscar Valdez, WBC supremo Gary Russell Jr or WBA holder Leo Santa Cruz.

Instead, Leeds’ IBF featherweight world champion will find himself taking on Sheffield’s Kid Galahad with a date and venue still to be decided though it’s safe to say it won’t be in the USA.

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Either way, not the venue or opponent that he wanted but Warrington says dreams of fighting in Vegas in 2019 en route to unifying the division have merely been delayed by a boxer handed a ‘Willy Wonka’ ticket to fight him.

Kid Galahad.

The 29th fight of Warrington’s perfect professional career looked destined to take place Stateside following the Leeds Warrior’s brilliant first defence of his IBF featherweight world title belt against Frampton at Manchester Arena in December.

A man on a mission and a man in a hurry, Warrington had already made clear his intentions to unify the featherweight division and the 28-year-old had set his sights on the WBO belt held by 28-year-old unbeaten Mexican star Valdez.

Galahad, though, had other ideas with the Sheffield fighter having manoeuvred himself into the position of mandatory challenger by beating Toka Kahn Clary in October for the 26th victory of a 26-fight career.

Warrington would have been facing the threat of being stripped of his IBF belt had he refused to take on Qatar-born Galahad whose professional career was interrupted by a ban for doping.

Leo Santa Cruz.

Having already branded Galahad “cocky” and a “disgrace to the sport”, Warrington is not exactly the fighter’s biggest fan – and nor would a clash against Galahad have been the preferred next option.

Yet Warrington will merely knuckle down with the task in hand with his aim to quickly unify the division remaining unaffected and with the IBF champ still hoping for a date in Vegas against one of the weight’s big guns later this year.

“It is what it is,” said Warrington of the Galahad fight.

“I think I have made my thoughts clear about him as a character.

Oscar Valdez, left.

“I wanted to unify, I want to unify and that’s the dream and it is a stepping stone isn’t it?

“I can’t overlook him because he’s still there and he’s a got a massive Willy Wonka golden ticket opportunity but I’ve got to beat him before I go on and unify it, that’s how I see it.

“I want to be mixing with Leo Santa Cruz and all those top fighters.

“I wanted to now be in the top 10 pound for pound and I’m there or thereabouts now.

“I want to be unified champion, never mind being Leeds’ first world champion, I want to be unified champion and now it’s gone beyond all the dreams I ever wanted to achieve.

“I’m at a stage now where I can leave a legacy, not just for Leeds boxing or for Yorkshire but the country.

“People could turn around after my next few fights and say ‘Josh Warrington was one of Britain’s great fighters’ and that’s all over the next few years.”

Pressed on how he saw 2019 mapping out in light of the Galahad bout, Warrington pondered: “One more after Galahad. That’s ideal.

“Ideally I want to be going out twice a year, that would be enough for me.

“Obviously mentally it takes a lot out of you in the build up and everything else and Vegas at the end of the year would be a nice little Christmas present for those who have supported me.

“It would give the boys an excuse to come on their jollies and cheer me on in their numbers. That’s the dream.”

Warrington was in fine form discussing those latest dreams at last weekend’s Leeds Sports Awards where his superb achievements during 2018 were recognised with a Sporting Pride Of Leeds Award.

December’s power-packed first successful defence of his title against Frampton came just seven months after being crowned IBF featherweight champion of the world through a stunning defeat of Lee Selby at Elland Road.

The last two years have been a whirlwind for Warrington in and out of the ring with the fighter also marrying his long-term partner Natasha, moving house and becoming the proud dad to baby twin girls. The IBF featherweight world champion even managed to squeeze in the filming of a movie ‘Fighting For A City’.

“I kind of like the busyness!” laughed Warrington.

“Before Selby we had the twins and before Carl we moved house and we had the film coming out, so maybe the busyness is a good distraction – I don’t know. We’ll see what’s next!”

There is, though, no denying what Warrington wants next after the Galahad bout – and something that quite literally dreams are made of.

“We keep on making these little goals and dreams and living them out,” said Warrington.

“I feel like I am living the dream, to walk out at Elland Road in front of 20,000 people and to be crowned Leeds’ first world champion was an honour and know I want to take the crazy Leeds bunch over to the Stateside.

“I’ve had dreams of being stood on Vegas Strip and seeing 10,000 Leeds fans walking down singing Marching On Together and having a good old laugh.

“I am just enjoying everything that I am doing now, with my fights I feel like I am bringing my best to the table, I am enjoying the camps and everything that goes with it. I’m in a good place. I feel like I am reaching my peak years now.

“My best performances are coming out, I had a fantastic 2018 and this year I want to top that.”