'I've got the beating of Frampton': Josh Warrington interview
Twelve weeks on from toppling Lee Selby at Elland Road, IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington is refusing to be satisfied and believes he has the beating of iconic Northern Irishman Carl Frampton...
Ninety days since a Yorkshireman and a Welshman had a fight for a world title inside a football stadium.
Unbeaten Josh Warrington in the blue corner. Unbeaten Lee Selby, the IBF featherweight champion, in the red corner. A rivalry that started off lukewarm had reached fever pitch in front of a 20,000 crowd.
‘Warrington, surely, his plan has got to be to not allow Lee Selby to get in any sort of rhythm. Selby, technically, I think by common consensus may be the better boxer. Warrington, super fit, super committed and how will he feed off this crowd...'
BT Sports boxing commentator John Rawling.
Then came the bell for round one.
A cacophony of noise ringing around Elland Road. An iconic footballing theatre that has seen the dynamic Billy Bremner, the ‘Gentle Giant’ John Charles, the intimidating Norman Hunter and more play their part in lifting Leeds United football club to dizzy heights.
Saturday 19 May 2018 saw Josh Warrington punch his ticket to a level few thought possible. Selby was meant to be too technical, too fast, too slick. Warrington said shove it. He suffocated the champ. He had his number early doors. The pre-fight odds were flattened within a few rounds. Not even the puzzling split decision verdict could dampen the celebrations for Warrington and co.
A night to remember for a city that hadn’t seen anything like it in 26 years when, on a cold September night at Elland Road’s Banqueting Suite, Bradford’s Frank Grant ended the night with the British title around his waist after a ninth-round stoppage over Herol Graham.
‘He’s a great fighter but he’s 33-years-old now, and he’s got to go some time,’ said Grant. That was his moment in the sun. Neville Brown would end it just over a year later.
Josh Warrington wants more. He wants more titles. He wants all the big hitters in and around him.
“I’m not letting it settle in,” Warrington (27-0, 6 KOs) told Boxing Monthly while stuck in traffic during a trip into town.
“Prior to this, the Selby fight, I said I’d be happy to just win the fight and win the world title but as soon as I got back to the changing rooms I thought to myself: ‘I’m not finished. Who else wants it?’”
Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton does. A two-weight world champion who has a whole nation behind him. Around 25,000 of them will descend on Windsor Park, Belfast tomorrow night to see their hero hopefully jump the Luke Jackson hurdle without any trip-ups, en route to a fight against Warrington.
The name of Frampton carries weight in boxing worldwide nowadays. The reputation built itself through talent and support. World titles came, world titles went. Trips to New York and Las Vegas in between for the Jackal’s pack.
Both promoted by Frank Warren, Warrington vs Frampton should be an easy dust-up to make. Warrington’s attitude of ‘Let’s have it’ resurfaced when BM discussed it with him.
“Again, just like against Selby, I’ve got massive belief and think I can beat Carl,” said the IBF champion.
“He’s a great fighter, I’ve enjoyed watching him over the years, but I’ve got the beating of him. Sometimes it’s about timing. I’m coming into my peak whereas Carl’s had a good few years at the top. I don’t think he’ll be getting any better if that makes sense.”
Frampton and his trainer Jamie Moore say he’s better than ever. The man who beat Kiko, Quigg and Santa Cruz is a thing of the past. Frampton 2.0 can defeat all-comers at 126lbs. Even if we didn’t hear those soundbites there would be many, as there are regardless, that see Frampton as a level above Warrington.
Does the new IBF champ and father to six-month-old twin girls think he is being overlooked in this match-up?
“I think I’m always going to be overlooked. People think I’ve got to the position where I am because I’ve got a massive fanbase behind me,” he answered, before adding he hopes to be in attendance tomorrow night to study Frampton and, of course, Jackson, should the current 12/1 underdog topple the 1/66 favourite.
“Even though I won over a lot of doubters, critics and haters in the last fight I still think any time it gets mentioned with Carl it seems to be ‘Lee's a good fighter but Carl’s another level’. How many fucking levels is there? It’s like Lee Selby were elite level, Carl Frampton’s platinum level! It’s ridiculous, really. Fair play to Carl he’s come out and said it himself: ‘You can’t not say Josh Warrington isn’t a world-class fighter’.
"For me, like I say, I’d like to think I’d win anybody over who didn’t think I were at that level by potentially fighting Carl or beating him.”
The doubters, if there are any left, give Warrington a kick up the backside. Motivation isn’t difficult to come by for him and he feels like he still has plenty to prove. The underdog mentality remains, and it likely will no matter what he goes on to achieve from here. Even if he were to go out and hand Frampton the first stoppage loss of his career.
“I don’t just want to beat him like I beat Lee Selby,” said Warrington almost snarling. And he agreed with BM that it’s another chance to stick two fingers up to those out there that perhaps still don’t give him the credit he deserves for his win over Selby.
“I outclassed him. I out-boxed the boxer and I want to do the same with Carl. I wouldn’t want to just scrape over the line. I’d go for a stoppage to, like you say, stick two fingers up to all those who didn’t bat an eyelid and then they’ll say: ‘Where’s this came from?’ That’s the plan.”
The plan was much smaller back in the days of fighting in leisure centres in Huddersfield. Three years of four and six-rounders before he was part of a fight that had a double figure distance.
Then he became English champion, then Commonwealth, then British, then European, then took on guys who had world experience like Hisashi Amagasa and Kiko Martinez. The traditional route, the right way. The early days of it even had Warrington dreaming of Vegas.
“Many joked about it over the years when I were just coming up to British level and saying ‘Hey this is the road to Vegas’ and now it’s within touching distance and I can actually make it a reality. I’d love to do something like that. And it’s memories for a lot of my friends, family and supporters.”
Elland Road was a memory and a half. The Kaiser Chiefs giving fans and viewers a mini concert, the footballing 'Kaizer Chief' Lucas Radebe – former Leeds United captain - walked Warrington to the ring. More than one box ticked off. Give him the choice of fighting there again or under the bright lights in Vegas and he will choose the latter. The journey feels Hatton-esque.
Wherever it is, Warrington wants to avoid going through the motions. He wants to rise to a challenge. An unknown mandatory may kick in at some point in 2019, should he still be champion, but for now all eyes are on Frampton and the all-stars at 126lbs; Santa Cruz, Russell and Valdez. A red-hot division where Warrington will give any of them a run for their money.
“They were talking about Selby saying he’s got skills beyond so many levels and I got out of there and thought give me any one of them champions; Gary Russell, Santa Cruz, Oscar Valdez. I want to be tested where I can’t breathe.
“I’ve got a new wave of confidence where I think that I can definitely go in and beat one of these other champions. No-one gave me a chance against Selby. All the boxing critics were saying that I was going to get my head boxed off, made to look embarrassed and the Leeds fans would be silent but that made me train harder and made me more focussed when the night came. I like being the underdog.”
The last 12 weeks have been non-stop for Warrington and his family. Media, events, the diary filled up. No chance of a holiday yet for him and his young family. It’s whirlwind stuff. Everything he wanted and probably more. He still ticks over in the gym, in between being here, there and everywhere and spending as much time as he can with his baby girls.
Throughout it all one constant remains and that is his hunger to go out there and prove that what he did against Selby was not a one-off. No time to rest and reminisce.
“I’ve said this many a time: the day that you start feeling satisfied with what you’ve achieved is the day that you lose that hunger. I want to have the same mindset of a challenger. There are all these boys behind me now that want to be in my position. I’ve worked hard to get here, and I don’t want no-one to take the title off me.”