Josh Warrington went home in the early hours of Sunday morning to a fry-up and a concerted stint of “changing sh***y nappies”, turning his mind to fatherhood after the experience of a lifetime, but the future holds more glamour than that.
The featherweight division is Warrington’s to attack after he hit Lee Selby with the performance of his career and the full force of a unique crowd, clubbing Selby to a points defeat. Elland Road was ready to take on the world and Warrington has the chance to do the same after becoming Leeds’ first boxing world champion by claiming Selby’s IBF belt.
A split decision in Warrington’s favour – unreasonably close after a 12-round bout which the 27-year-old dominated brilliantly – settled a two-year feud with Selby and gave Warrington what he called a “fairytale ending” after the most emotional period of his life. Three months ago, wife Natasha gave birth to twins, right at the start of his training camp. “Natasha’s already said I’m on duty for changing sh***y nappies in the middle of the night,” he joked. A cooked breakfast and a pint of Guinness was all Warrington wanted in return.
He will not fall back into domestic bliss for long. Carl Frampton, the Belfast featherweight and another fighter who sells tickets in droves, watched from ringside as Warrington dismantled Selby by cutting him in the second and sixth rounds – the first a horrible gash caused by a clash of heads – and pressuring the Welshman in the way that Warrington does.
Frank Warren, who promotes both boxers and Frampton, too, said a Warrington-Frampton fight would wait until a gap in the football season, and most likely next summer, to ensure it got the venue it deserved but it is already in the pipeline. Warrington pulls a crowd like few others in the UK and 20,000 were inside Elland Road on Saturday, driving him to a display which proved his class at world level regardless of the one judge, Canadian Alan Davis, who gave a baffling score of 115-113 against him.
It was, as Selby admitted beforehand, all there for Warrington at the home of the club where he holds a season ticket. It was Warrington’s dream to fight for a world title at Elland Road, to have the Kaiser Chiefs play as he walked to the ring and to have Lucas Radebe, Leeds United’s former captain, alongside him on that walk. Radebe flew in from South Africa specially.
Selby, who had defended the IBF title four times previously but was never allowed to find his rhythm or use his range, had dismissed the crowd beforehand as an “irrelevance”. “The whole country wants me to win,” he told Warrington at their last press conference. Most of Leeds felt differently.
“When you’ve got a support like that behind you, you don’t need anyone else,” said Warrington. “But if anyone else wants to jump on board, I’ll meet them with open arms.”
There were echoes of 2005 and the night when Ricky Hatton claimed his first world title by stopping the legendary Kostya Tszyu at a packed MEN Arena at Manchester. Warrington sought some pre-fight advice from Hatton’s former trainer, Billy Graham, asking how Hatton coped with the occasion and announced himself on the world stage.
Composed and calculated, those chats seemed to work. Warrington hammered Selby in the second and sixth rounds and found Selby unusually willing to trade punches. Warrington’s strength was telling and a bloodied Selby, as a record showing just nine stoppages suggested, lacked the punches to slug his way out of trouble. There was moment of appreciation between them at the final bell and no attempt on Selby’s part to argue with Warrington’s celebration. The dissent when a split decision was announced was quickly quelled by two judges scoring in favour of Warrington.
When you’ve got a support like that behind you, you don’t need anyone else. But if anyone else wants to jump on board, I’ll meet them with open arms.Josh Warrington
“I could die a happy man now,” said Warrington. “What an occasion, what a night – a fairytale ending.
“I’ve been doubted for a very long time. I was doubted at English level, I was doubted at British level. I wasn’t meant to go any further. But number one in the world. No-one would ever have thought I’d got the speed, the punching power or the boxing intelligence but I outboxed, outfought and outsmarted a brilliant champion in Lee Selby.”
Selby and Warrington fell out two years ago when a proposed fight between them collapsed. Selby accused Warrington of “bottling it” and their relationship grew increasingly bitter.
“Prior to this fight, I always had respect for Lee. It takes a good fighter to win a world title and defend it more than one occasion.
“He took it personal a few years ago and naturally I’m a lad from an estate so I responded. There was a lot of animosity but I said to him after the final bell ‘what’s done is done. We’ve just had 12 rounds to sort it out. Hopefully, we’ll leave it at that.”