Why Josh Warrington is keeping his options open this time

Belter: Josh Warrington after victory against Sofiane Takoucht at Leeds Arena. Picture: Steve Riding
Belter: Josh Warrington after victory against Sofiane Takoucht at Leeds Arena. Picture: Steve Riding
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Josh Warrington feels he belongs at “elite level” after retaining his IBF featherweight title in style on Saturday night.

The Leeds Warrior still has not lost a professional fight and has extended his record to 30 wins from 30 fights.

Since claiming the IBF belt against Lee Selby at Elland Road in May, 2018, Warrington has defended his title against Carl Frampton, Kid Galahad and Sofiane Takoucht.

He had hoped to fight Leo Santa Cruz or Oscar Valdez in a unification bout but the pair vacated their respective featherweight titles to move up a weight class.

That left Warrington with the IBF’s No 4-ranked challenger, who had never been stopped in his previous 39 fights.

Warrington said: “I put myself under a little bit of pressure by saying what I was going to do beforehand. But I delivered and I think I have shown a level. We beat Lee Selby, he was one of the very best in the world.

“We beat Carl Frampton in the defence and Kid Galahad and all these lads are ranked very highly.

“Don’t get me wrong, Takoucht is ranked highly with the IBF but I have shown, Carl used to talk about that elite level, and I think I belong there.”

Warrington wants his next fight to be against “anyone with a belt.” WBC champion Gary Russell Junior is on his radar, with the American winning his featherweight title in 2015.

He has defended his belt on just four occasions and Warrington says that Russell will need to come to “his backyard” for a unification bout.

Warrington wants to keep his options open, however.

Shakur Stevenson faces Joet Gonzalez for the vacant WBO title on October 26 while Can Xu will fight Manny Robles for the WBA belt at the end of November.

He said: “I banged the drum about going to the states before the Galahad fight. Now my mindset has changed a bit. We put on a hell of a spectacle when we boxed Lee Selby at Elland Road. If it was a unification fight over here, imagine that. It would be twice as big.

“They don’t get passionate fans out there like we have here.

“We talked about the other champions, Oscar Valdez and Santa Cruz, but they have moved up now. Gary Russell Junior fights once a year, he hasn’t got a fanbase so if he wants to fight then he needs to come to my backyard.”

Warrington added: “We want to keep our options open. Shakur Stevenson has been banging on about me for ages but, to be honest, he has gone quiet now.

“If he goes and wins that title I don’t think he wants his first defence against me.”

Warrington dominated Saturday night’s bout against Takoucht, delivering the statement win that he had promised pre-fight. He sent the Frenchmen back against the corner with a clean right hand to the chin midway through the second round.

Seconds later, Takoucht was on the canvas again as the champion caught him with another fierce right hand.

The challenger survived that knock down but the fight was waved off late in the second round as a flurry of ferocious punches from Warrington sent Takoucht stumbling across the ring and the referee stepped in to end the fight.

“I am not going to stick to a name,” said Warrington when looking to his next defence.

“I did that before Barry (Kid Galahad) and after Barry, to be honest. I kept saying I wanted Leo Santa Cruz and that Ring Magazine belt.

“He beat Carl Frampton and I wanted to beat him because he was No 1 in the rankings. I pushed it that much and then he just vacated. I am not going to pin down one name, I am just going to keep the options open.”