Josh Warrington ready to step up to capture the super fights

Most boxers in Josh Warrington’s position would be left pinching themselves at the heights their career has hit.

Josh Warrington weighs in at Leeds Corn Exchange for the Sofiane Takoucht fight . Picture: Steve Riding

The IBF featherweight champion goes into tonight’s title defence aiming to make it a perfect 30-0 in the professionial ranks but insists he is still not satisfied.

The ‘Leeds Warrior’ won his IBF belt at Elland Road, the home of his beloved Leeds United, in May, 2018 with a stunning performance to dethrone Lee Selby.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He followed that up with another incredible display in December, seeing off the challenge of former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton.

After his split decision victory over Kid Galahad in June, Warrington had hopes of unifying the featherweight division.

The Leeds fighter was keen for contests with fellow champions Leo Santa Cruz and Oscar Valdez but those fights never came to fruition with the pair both moving up a weight class.

Warrington will put his title on the line for a third time as he faces Sofiane Takoucht – the highest available challenger on his IBF mandatory list – at the Leeds First Direct Arena this evening.

But the Frenchman was not the person Warrington expected to be facing following his victory in June. The 28-year-old insists he is only focusing on defeating Takoucht but does have his eye on a potential unification bout with WBC champion Gary Russell Junior.

The American most recently defended his world title against Kiko Martinez in May.

“This is my third defence. But I am not satisfied, I am not happy. I don’t want to finish here, there is more to come,” said Warrington.

“For Santa Cruz, he could have still got as much publicity and as much coinage from a third fight with Carl Frampton.

“Oscar Valdez did talk about it, but when it came down to contracts, he didn’t want it. It is frustrating. Very frustrating.

“I have still got Gary Russell Junior, Can Xu has got the WBA regular title, so there are two options there.

“Shakur Stevenson fights for the WBO belt in a few weeks, if he wins that he might want his first title defence against me. It is unlikely, but if he does – I’m here.”

Russell has fought just four times since winning his WBC belt in March, 2015.

Warrington admits he does not want to “draw out” his own reign as world champion and is willing to step up a weight class to fight the likes of Santa Cruz and Oscar Valdez.

“I don’t want to draw it out, I don’t want to be conning the fans,” he said.

“You want to strike while the iron is hot, when you have got momentum behind you.

“Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of the big fights, the big occasions and the super fights?

“You are not a pro forever. Injuries happen, fighters get beat and then all of sudden it is gone.

“Make the fights when you can.

“If the other fighters don’t want it this time round, and there is an option to go up to super feather to fight Valdez and Santa Cruz then I will go and do that.

“I can beat one of them and then come back down and take care of business at featherweight.”

Warrington has even admitted he would be interested in a potential bout with highly-rated Ukrainian Vasiliy Lomachenko.

The 31-year-old holds the WBC, WBA and WBO lightweight titles and defeated Hull’s Luke Campbell at the O2 Arena in London at the end of August.

Warrington continued: “Why would you not want to share the ring with him, have a little dance with him? He has been beaten, so why not?

“I don’t want to be sat in a working men’s club when I am 40-odd and say I could have boxed Lomachenko but I didn’t want it. Let’s be part of these big nights. If you come up short, you come up short but if you win, bloody hell, the whole world is taking about you then.”

Warrington’s bid for a 30th-successive professional win coincides with the centenary of Leeds United.

Warrington has utilised the support of the Whites fanbase and even enters the ring to the club’s anthem Marching on Together.

“It’s great, getting to work amongst them and with having the fight down at Elland Road and with how welcoming they are. I get a lot of messages of support from the club and from the players,” he said.

“It is my 30th fight, my 10th fight at the arena, the numbers work well.”

Warrington is hopeful that this is the season that Leeds eventually return to the Premier League and that a promotion will coincide with a unification fight at Elland Road.

“Let’s win in style and hopefully this is the season they get promoted,” he said.

“You bounce off each other and hopefully that can all happen – written in the stars.

“It would special. Winning my first world title there was special and to unify it there again – goosebumps.”

Kid Galahad could be Warrington’s mandatory by the end of the year, despite the fighter’s camp being opposed to a rematch.

But the IBF have ordered a final eliminator between Galahad and Claudio Marrero, who hails from the Domincan Republic.

Warrington is bemused by IBF’s decision to hand Galahad an eliminator but said: “He has got to win his fight first – talk to me after he has done that.”