Josh Warrington is at his barnstorming best when going into battle with both fists blazing… the Leeds Warrior must avoid switching from brawler to boxer and remain true to himself to prevail against Kiko Martinez
- Josh Warrington is gearing up for a career-defining night against Kiko Martinez
- It will be difficult to see where he goes from here if he doesn’t come out on top
- Warrington has suggested he will ditch volume punching for ‘selective accuracy’
- But the Leeds Warrior is often at his best when dragged into an all-out war
- He must stay true to himself to beat Martinez and become world champion again
The pseudonym ‘Leeds Warrior’ says it all. Josh Warrington likes nothing better than going into full-frontal battle in his home city with both fists blazing.
That barnstorming mentality swept him to one world featherweight title, raising a roaring Yorkshire army of thousands along the way.
Whether that of itself would be enough to secure him a second world championship at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on Saturday night, even the man himself is beginning to question.
As he takes on veteran IBF featherweight champion Kiko Martinez, Warrington is talking about distilling ‘the frenzy of my eight and nine punch combinations into more selective accuracy.’
Josh Warrington is gearing up for a career-defining rematch against old foe Kiko Martinez
Warrington will bid to become a two-time world champion against the Spaniard on Saturday
That reassessment has been prompted by a nasty shock followed by a bloody non-decision against another opponent.
One who was fatefully underestimated. Not only by Warrington, on his own admission, but probably by his team. Mauricio Lara materialised in Leeds as a destructive reminder never to take a Mexican boxer lightly.
Warrington was knocked out in their first fight and probably saved from a similar fate when his head-first charges inflicted a gash above Lara’s eye which, since it occurred as early as the second round, resulted in a technical draw.
Now his career has been revived inadvertently by Martinez inflicting a shock KO on another rival who gave Warrington almost as much trouble, Kid Galahad.
That gained the Spaniard a second world title, bringing with it this unexpected second chance for Warrington to become a two-time champion.
These two have had at each other previously. Warrington edged a split decision in Leeds five years ago, with Martinez claiming he had been robbed. As did Galahad when he complained of a similar verdict in the same First Direct Arena.
He got the better of Martinez when they last collided at the same Leeds arena in 2017
But Warrington has suggested he could alter his fighting style in this weekend’s showdown
The Leeds man has reassessed following two damaging fights against Mauricio Lara
Neither of those judgements was anywhere near as controversial as that granted to undisputed super-lightweight champion Josh Taylor over Jack Catterall in Glasgow the other night but there was something of a home-town feel about them. It was Warrington’s non-stop aggression which got him over the line.
Is this a wise moment to switch from brawler to boxer? The problem with so doing is that he does not carry one-punch KO power. Only seven of his 30 victories have been stoppages and they were achieved by his accumulative punching.
At 31, he says: ‘I’ve learned now never to overlook any opponent again and to take my time and pick my punches.’ Yet, Martinez, at five years older, may be less resistant to an all-action assault than he was in 2017.
Since it is impossible to imagine Warrington resisting the temptation for a slug-fest, especially if the going gets difficult, the good old Josh should do enough to win another title.
But Warrington is at his barnstorming best when going into battle with both fists blazing
If he does pull it off, this will have been a neat manoeuvre by promoter Eddie Hearn to lure Martinez back to Leeds. And it would set up a world championship unification fight with Nottingham’s Leigh Wood, who salvaged his so-called regular WBA title with that dramatic last round knock-out of Irish prodigy Michael Conlan.
If not, it is difficult to see where Warrington could go from here.
Second chance or Last Chance Saloon? That depends on the idol of Leeds being a Warrior true to himself.
Martinez v Warrington will be televised live this Saturday night on DAZN.
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