LEEDS’S Josh Warrington is confident of again silencing the doubters on the biggest stage of all come Saturday night’s eagerly-awaited IBF world featherweight title fight against Lee Selby at Elland Road.
Unbeaten Warrington has climbed the ranks quickly since making his professional debut back in October 2009 having claimed the English, British, Commonwealth, EBC and WBC international belts at featherweight level before building up to a world title shot.
The 27-year-old will get that chance for glory against Welshman Selby in Saturday night’s fight on the Elland Road pitch of Leeds United and the Yorkshireman warned that doubters would be writing him off at their peril in the 26th fight of his career.
Selby and Warrington have never been the best of friends and the duo again locked horns at another spikey, final press conference yesterday where Selby made light of the task of being thrown into the lions’ den containing Warrington’s passionate fans at Elland Road.
Warrington, for his part, said he was unconcerned about tackling Selby in the toughest test of his career, insisting he was destined to become his city’s first boxing world champion this weekend.
“I’ve been written off ever since I won the British title,” said Warrington.
“Every fight since then it’s been, ‘Warrington’s going to get found out’, but no matter what happens after Saturday night I’ll be there in the history books as Leeds’s first world champion.”
Prompted to stir up another war of words with Selby, Warrington said: “I’m relaxed.
“We had a bit of fun at the last press conference, but I don’t really need to say no more.
“I have dreamed of it many a time and I’m just ready to go now.
“I don’t feel like there is any need for any more bad talking as on Saturday I get to punch him in the face.
“There’s no need for spouting off.
“For the last few months I’ve put my body through hell, constantly thinking that this is what it’s leading up to after all the years and all the talk of me and Lee potentially fighting.
“Now I just want to get in the ring and do the business.”
And he repeated his confidence that “no matter what happens after Saturday night, I will always be there in the history books as Leeds’s first-ever world champion”.
Around 25,000 fans are expected to pack into Elland Road with Selby’s fans set to be few and far between amid partisan home support.
But the Welshman said he was unconcerned about the prospect of taking on Warrington in his own back yard.
“With the title as world champion, I should be willing and ready to defend my title anywhere in the world,” said Barry-born Selby.
“It’s only four hours on the road from where I live so it’s not so much into the lions’ den.
“I am expecting people to boo me. If I had a fight outside there would be people shouting and that. It’s a fight. It’s just another defence.”
Asked how he saw the fight concluding, Selby said: “Just a Lee Selby winner. I’m no Muhammad Ali, I can’t predict a round or anything like that, I can just predict being a winner. If not then I shouldn’t be here.
“I am looking forward to making a successful fifth defence and moving on to the sixth one. It will be just like the previous defences, another win for Lee Selby.”
The Welshman sat proudly with his belt at yesterday’s press conference, but Warrington insisted that the 31-year-old would be looking at the prized possession for the last time.
Selby, who has lost only once in 27 fights, has held the IBF title since defeating Russia’s Evgeny Gradovich in 2015.
Saturday’s defence is his fifth and he successful retained the belt twice last year.
Warrington quipped: “Carry on with the pictures this week, Lee, with that belt as it’s staying here. Once it comes here, it’s staying here.”
The duo will lock horns on two more occasions before the big fight itself with the pair taking part in open work-out sessions at Leeds Trinity this evening before meeting again at Friday’s weigh-in.
Warrington’s father and trainer Sean O’Hagan attempted to diffuse the tension, saying: “For all we do appreciate the support, we want to show Lee a little bit of respect.
“He’s world champion, he’s coming here and giving us an opportunity. A bit of banter’s okay, but let’s not get too silly. Let’s keep it right.”