Frontline Diary: The Warrior Returns

James Oddy
19/04/2016 7:12pm

One of the most endearing tropes of boxing is the hometown ticket-seller and, on Saturday, one of British boxing’s biggest Josh Warrington made his return. 

The featherweight loiner (native of Leeds) doesn’t seem a likely ticket-seller at first glance. At a smaller weight and without knockout power, with a style built around intelligent industry, he could have been one of the many enjoyable to watch boxers who get lost in the shuffle. However, an engaging and humble personality - alongside the opening of Leeds’ first and long overdue arena - have catapulted him to the status of the ‘next Ricky Hatton’.

Like Hatton, his fan base is boisterous, intimidating and, in some parts, alcohol fuelled. It was fascinating to imagine what Japan's Hisashi Amagasa, Warrington’s opponent, made of it all.

Japanese boxing culture, at least for spectators, is so markedly different from the UK’s that I did worry that he and his team may crumble slightly when up against the wall of noise which greeted his entrance.

Amagasa largely seemed to relish the occasion, however. He even appeared briefly before his official entrance to perform a small jig, before raising his fists up in the air and shadow boxing. He then smiled and joked with his team who also seemed suitably amused during their first trip out of Japan.

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Warrington’s power up close seems much harder than from a distance. Of course, every boxer’s does, but some of the shots he landed on Amagasa were sickening and the loudest heard all night, pound-for-pound. Similarly, Amagasa also landed some clubbing blows and for the odd moment Warrington did appear hurt, yet weathered it well.

It may be a moot point if Warrington is ‘ready’ for IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby or not, as it seems likely to happen regardless. His team certainly seem confident.

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The wide scorecards, particularly the 120-107 verdict, was met with derision from both print press at ringside and also some figures from Sky Sports and Matchroom. It was heartening to see Amagasa applauded on his way back to the dress room after such a ridiculous card.

Hopefully, Amagasa appears again in the UK.

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Security was extremely tight getting into the arena, with your writer getting frisked airport style and made to empty all of his pockets, and then quizzed why he may need a notepad and pen.

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Bradfordian welter Darren Tetley (11-0) was on as the second fight of the night and looked a cut above Casey Blair (3-8) for all six rounds, throwing some beautiful shots from his southpaw stance. Consensus at ringside was that he more than ready for an English title shot and would be the favorite. However, some ringsiders were calling for Tetley to put the foot down slightly and get Casey out of there when he was wobbled on a few occasions.

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Dave Ryan (17-9) gets little luck. His proposed fight for the Commonwealth super-lightweight title was called off around 25 minutes before it was due to start.

The official announcement was that his opponent Martin Haikali (18-6) was taken to hospital. However, some rumours at ringside suggested that a scab had fallen off a cut on the Namibian’s arm.

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Stuey Hall (20-4-2) looked huge compared to Rodrigo Guerrero (24-6-1). After three rounds, the press row seemed to universally decide the Mexican didn’t fancy it, such was his repeated claims of head-butts. 

Whilst Guerrero rallied and threw like a man possessed, Hall barely looked bothered (although shattered when back in the corner) and the shots he landed were extremely crisp in compression. Some of the Sky Sports team seemed to be mouthing ‘draw’ before the scores [unanimous for Hall] were read out.

Hall clearly enjoys boxing in Leeds; he won his IBF 118lbs bantamweight title in the arena and remarked after the fight that it was the best crowd he’d boxed before.

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The event closed out with a wild slugfest between Isaac Chamberlain (5-0) and Russ Henshaw  (6-1). The two cruiserweights oscillated between holding and throwing huge shots, Chamberlain occasionally using a good jab before getting dragged back in.

Chamberlain had a large contingent of supporters who, in the deserted arena, made plenty of noise, imploring there man to ‘1-2 Isaac. 1-2’. Henshaw had David Coldwell ringside to support him, who began screaming ‘tell him to breathe!’ 

Henshaw was TKO’d in the final round and probably took two or three too many shots, before referee John Latham and the towel simultaneously got between the pair..

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Your writer bumped into former British, Commonwealth and European light-heavyweight champion Crawford Ashley on his way out, who looked dashing in bright red top hat and overcoat. He was in good spirits chatting to Glenn McCrory.

Photo credit: Lawrence Lustig.