Frontline diary: A city united

James Oddy
20/05/2018 8:27pm

James Oddy was at Elland Road for Boxing Monthly on Saturday night as Josh Warrington toppled IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby. Here are his ringside reflections...

Josh Warrington could prove an example to follow for fellow Leeds boxer Jack Bateson, who moved to 6-0 on Saturday night on the undercard of Warrington's sensational triumph against Wales' Lee Selby.

Bateson has taken to the pro game with ease after a stellar amateur career with Great Britain. A big ticket seller who hails from a well-known fighting family, we should expect to see plenty of him over the coming years. His footwork, intensity and speed make for an eye-catching prospect. A four-round points victory on Saturday against Spaniard Jose Hernandez will have further advanced Bateson's fistic education.

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Ohara Davies made his debut for Queensbury Promotions. He made his entrance to the strains of WWF wrestler Kane's theme tune. For those who don't know their WWF lore (what's wrong with you?) Kane is the disfigured, evil half-brother of The Undertaker. Davies has previously used The Undertaker's theme music. Was Davies making a statement about the duality of man? Referencing his rebirth under a new promotional banner? Having a sly dig at the relationship between Queensbury and Matchroom? Or did he just think it sounded cool? No idea, but I admire his commitment to showmanship.

That being said, Davies' fight against Ahmed Ibrahim was no great shakes. Davies mainly seemed to use it as an extended spar. The Hackney man can look very crude yet his shots obviously carry serious, thudding power. His six-round points win saw him advance to 17-1.

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Bradford welter Darren Tetley has been bubbling under for a while. A good amateur and an undercard regular, the 24-year-old rallied superbly after being put under the cosh at times by Cheshire's Mason Cartwright. Cartwright's shots sounded the much heavier from ringside, and Tetley looked taken aback in the early rounds. The knockdown was undoubtedly the tipping point. The horrific cut Cartwright received proved a suitably brutal conclusion to the fight as it was halted in the ninth. However, such a finish robbed us of seeing a grandstand finale from two fine young undefeated fighters. Not sure if we’ll see them go at it again, but it’d be great if we did.

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Leeds' Olympic gold medalist turned pro flyweight Nicola Adams was very warmly received, which wasn’t a great surprise. She wasn’t just obviously a better boxer than her opponent, Soledad del Valle Frias, she was also far superior physically. The quartet of Bateson, Tetley, Adams and Warrington may be an interesting ‘West Yorkshire stable’ to watch out for on future Queensbury cards in the area.

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The atmosphere prior to the Selby vs Warrington fight was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in any sport. There was a palpable excitement, laced with a heavy dose of hostility. By hostility, I don’t mean the childish behaviour splashed all over social media. In fact, most fans seemed well behaved. But there was a definite sense of a city uniting, showing the outside world that it could come together to support one of it’s own. The focus seemed more to be on Warrington rather than Selby as such, a collective will for Warrington to win rather than for Selby to lose.

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It’s interesting how watching a fight at ringside is different from watching on TV. The main difference is how much heavier shots seem when seen up close. And Warrington consistently landed the heavier shots from my perspective. Selby shot lots of pained looks in clinches and looked hurt on a few occasions.

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Referee Michael Alexander clearly made a joke with a judge about the state of his shirt. He looked like he’d spent a day working in an abattoir, after all.

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As the result of the big fight was announced, around three or four Warrington fans broke down one of the security barriers and tried to rush the ring, evading a mad scramble by the first line of security staff before being stopped. It was good-natured, but it did make me wonder what would have happened if Selby had won. The police presence seemed minimal all night. That being said, Elland Road is literally opposite one of West Yorkshire police's main hubs.

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On my way out, I saw a young lad, aged about nine or ten, with his dad, both wearing novelty Selby/Warrington scarves in Leeds United's famous yellow and blue. For all the snobbery around Warrington and his fan base, it can't be denied that he’s engaged a whole new audience in the city. Seeing young people at boxing is refreshing.