Josh Warrington

Unbeaten IBF featherweight czar Josh Warrington looks to mix some media work with a reconnaissance mission on both site and fighter when he sits ringside at Windsor Park, Belfast this weekend to witness home hero Carl Frampton’s WBO ‘interim’ 9st defence against 16-0 Aussie Luke ‘Action’ Jackson this weekend. He can anticipate a lively ‘welcome’ from the locals!

Yesterday the turbo-charged 27 year old ‘Leeds Warrior’ gave Glynn Evans his views on a prospective Anglo-Irish war that is starting to look more probable than possible.

“Last November I went to the SSE Arena in Belfast for Carl’s comeback fight against Horacio Garcia. A few diehard fans shook my hand but they basically left me to it. Might be different this time (laughs)!

But I think the Belfast and Irish boxing fans have a bit of respect for fighters. Carl’s ‘their man’ so I don’t expect ‘em to be licking my arse but hopefully it’ll be respectful jip.

Whereas Lee Selby had that arrogant persona and things got a bit personal, Carl seems a genuine straight up guy and whenever we’ve met we’ve shook hands. No doubt a healthy competitive edge will emerge if and when our ‘build up’ starts. But we’re just two athletes intent on proving we’re the best.

I don’t think Carl is any less keen on fighting me now than he was before I smashed Selby. I’m sure he still has the belief that he can beat me. But he’ll know the odds are narrowing. The boxing world didn’t think I had the calibre of performance in me that I showed against Selby. I won a lot of fans over.

However, selling a stadium fight is pretty intense and my ‘camp’ for the Selby fight was very long and mentally hard. I had to make sacrifices and it takes a lot out of ya. I needed some quality time with my wife and babies (six month old twin daughters) and to just enjoy being world champion.

Since winning the title I’ve done some charity work and a bit of house hunting. I’ve been in the gym, keeping fit and working on stuff whilst I wait for Frank (Warren, his Hall of Fame promoter) to sort something. Now I can’t wait for ‘camp’ to start.

I’d have liked a big ‘Leeds away day’ and I could’ve been ready to fight Frampton at Windsor (Park) in late September or October. But you can only have stadium fights at a certain time of year. That’s now unlikely before next spring.

And it may as well be at Elland Road again as Belfast. I’m the world champion, remember, not Frampton. We could have it later this year at a neutral indoor arena such as Manchester or the O2 in London, wherever revenue is biggest. There’s no point downgrading the fight by having it indoors in Leeds or Belfast.

But first Carl has to win on Saturday and, second, he has to come through without injury. Then it’s about how soon he’s prepared to get back in camp.

I think Luke Jackson has been hand picked to help Carl really shine in this big stadium fight at Windsor Park that he’s craved for so long.

But Jackson can’t be disrespected. He’s unbeaten, a former Olympian, world ranked by the WBO and he brings quite a high social media presence. While Luke hasn’t really boxed anyone high calibre yet, he’s hungry and he’ll come and have a go. This is a huge opportunity for him. Frampton can’t take him lightly but I expect Carl’s class will tell and he’ll deliver a performance that’ll keep all us other top featherweights on our toes.

Frampton is still the fight I want most and I’m hoping it’ll be this year. My philosophy is, every fight is hard at world level, every camp requires you preparing to the optimum, so chase the money fights. Let’s get the best fights done.

Beating Selby and Frampton in 2018 would represent a hell of a year for me and line-up some unification do-dahs with the other champions over in the States in 2019. I want to take all the Leeds fans to Vegas.

Even after what I showed against Selby, there’s plenty still think I won’t be able to compete with Carl, the two-weight world champion who beat Leo Santa Cruz. But timing is everything in boxing and my (training) stats show that I’m still constantly improving, approaching my peak. Each camp I’m getting stronger and faster. There’s more to come. And I consistently deliver my best performances in my biggest contests.

For some years I’ve held the belief that I’ve got the attributes – the will and the desire – to be the best in the world at 126. I’m a huge, huge featherweight. Because my stoppage ratio is relatively low, people seriously underestimate my strength in the clinches and my punch power. I hurt opponents.

Since his comeback, Carl hasn’t seemed quite so fresh. His win over Donaire wasn’t his most convincing. There were glimpses of brilliance and he certainly hasn’t lost his boxing brain. You certainly can’t write him off but maybe the engine and legs weren’t quite what they once were. Age catches up with everybody.”

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