Josh Warrington is content to remain an underdog but hopes there can be no doubting his status as one of the world’s best featherweights after a barnstorming victory over Carl Frampton.
The two combatants engaged in a contender for fight of the year at the Manchester Arena but Warrington largely came out on top of the numerous bruising exchanges to earn a unanimous decision win.
Warrington – who prevailed by two scores of 116-112 and one of 116-113 – therefore made a successful first defence of the IBF featherweight title he wrenched from Lee Selby in May and took his perfect professional record to 28-0.
As he had been against Selby at his beloved Elland Road, Leeds fighter Warrington was given little chance of succeeding against the bookmakers’ favourite and former two-weight world champion Frampton.
Warrington, though, made a mockery of those predictions and, although he admitted to having some pre-fight jitters, expects to be given his due credit after upsetting the odds once again.
He said: “I like the (underdog) title, it takes the pressure off.
“There were times throughout (Saturday) where it’s been an emotional roller coaster, thinking ‘am I at this level?’ But then I think ‘don’t be daft. I’ve trained 12 weeks like a demon’.
“Once I stepped into this arena, there was no way I was getting beat. I’ve just got something inside me that just won’t let me get beat.
“Carl Frampton and Lee Selby in the same year, if you’d have said to someone at the start of the year ‘Josh Warrington is going to beat those two back-to-back’, they’d have laughed at you.
“Maybe people will really start taking note now. I’m not the fastest, I’m not the strongest, I’m not the most intelligent boxer or the flashest boxer in there, but I go in there and I always wear my heart on my sleeve.
“I’ve been doubted from English title level all the way to the very, very top but I’m still here and 28-0 now.”
The affable Warrington sported bruises to his head and had the middle and ring fingers on his right hand bandaged at the post-fight press conference following his savage battle with Frampton.
The pair showed a healthy respect for each other in the build-up and Warrington was full of warm words for his beaten foe.
Warrington said: “He’s still got my full respect. He’s a tough, tough, tough man. There were times this week when I thought to myself ‘why didn’t we just have a steady one? Why did we go straight in there with Carl?’
“I was a fan before and I’m still a fan now. He’ll go down as one of the great champions at super-bantam and featherweight.”
Always the underdog and he always steps up, they say boxing is about levels and @J_Warrington keeps breezing through them. Great for him and great for Leeds. Keep going boss and unify 🥊🥊 https://t.co/tjDOMe2XXH— Frank Bruno MBE (@frankbrunoboxer) 23 December 2018
The 28-year-old wants a unification fight across the Atlantic in the new year, with WBO champion Oscar Valdez, WBA titlist Leo Santa Cruz and WBC beltholder Gary Russell Jr in his sights.
He added: “Bring them on. They’re all brilliant fighters and I have respect for all of them but (I’ll fight) any one of them.
“I need to be a part of these big fights. I like it busy, it’s what keeps me going. Next year, we’ll take the boys Stateside, I wouldn’t mind a little away trip.”
Frampton’s future seems more uncertain after the second defeat of an illustrious professional career, with the 31-year-old Northern Irishman saying in the ring afterwards he would “figure out the next move”.
Frank Warren, who promotes both fighters and labelled Saturday night’s headliner “the best title fight I’ve ever seen in a British ring”, says he will back Frampton in whatever he chooses to do.
He said: “He’s not a stupid man, he’s a very sensible guy. I’m sure he’ll have a nice Christmas with his family and I don’t think this is the day to decide anything.
“He’ll go away and think about things and make a decision about what he wants to do in the future and whatever he wants to do, I’ll be 100 per cent with him.”
Anthony Joshua has told Dillian Whyte he is prepared to make the next defence of his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles in a rematch against him – if Deontay Wilder cannot be tempted to abandon plans to again fight Tyson Fury.
Whyte produced a devastating stoppage of Dereck Chisora in the 11th round at London’s 02 Arena to further his claims to again fight his rival at Wembley Stadium on April 13, even with Joshua considering abandoning that date to instead fight in America for the first time.
Joshua has repeatedly spoken of his desire to fight the undefeated WBC champion Wilder for all four world titles, but with the American expected to fight Fury in a rematch in Las Vegas in April, he will likely require an alternative opponent and he insisted Whyte would then be the leading candidate.
A Joshua-Whyte rematch had appeared an inevitability until the fallout from Wilder-Fury threatened Joshua’s reputation and has potentially changed their plans.
America’s Jarrell Miller would be the favourite if he fought in the US.
The 30-year-old Whyte called Joshua out once Chisora had recovered from his chilling knockout, but Joshua, 29, and unusually booed by many of those present at The O2, said: “If Deontay Wilder is serious and he is going to fight Tyson Fury and doesn’t want to become undisputed champion, Dillian you will get a shot.
“Dillian’s an idiot, because I showed him some respect. I knocked him clean out when we fought (in 2015), but I said let’s forget that because we have both improved so let’s prove who is the better fighter now.
“He starts piping up, I said ‘All right, cool’. I’m quite respectful but if Dillian steps in the ring with me you better believe me, none of these heavyweights are on my level, and I keep my lid on because I don’t want to explode on none of them.
“If Dillian’s serious, he can come get this work as well, but when the crowd want to see the fight with Dillian, I don’t want to hear no talk when I whoop him, ‘Oh he has had an easy touch, you should have fought Wilder’. Any of them are free to step in that ring with me.
“Everyone knows I need to fight Deontay Wilder, I’m ready. I’m proud of what Dillian has done. If it’s not Wilder, it’s Whyte over Miller.”
It was in response to Whyte insisting: “I deserve my shot, I’ve worked my way up”, that Joshua labelled him an “idiot”, and the two fighters’ promoter Eddie Hearn said it was a case of “when not if” their rematch is made.
Revisiting his victory over Chisora, Whyte said: “I hurt him in the first round and thought ‘Hey, relax’. I knew it would come.
“I threw a lazy right hand and dipped a bit, (then) boom! That shot is going to put a lot of people away.
“Let’s go (Anthony), let’s go!”
Hearn explained: “It’s a matter of when, not if, because I think Dillian Whyte is going to become the WBO mandatory.
“Chisora and Whyte did themselves proud. It goes down as another classic.
“If Deontay Wilder doesn’t want to fight Anthony, then I think it should be Dillian Whyte.”
Saul Canelo Alvarez has become a three-weight world champion after knocking down Britain’s Rocky Fielding four times in three rounds to claim the WBA “regular” super-middleweight title at Madison Square Garden.
Alvarez, whose first professional titles came at welterweight, went into his first fight at 168lbs as the favourite, despite the fact he was fighting 21lbs and three divisions above where he first established himself.
The 28-year-old Mexican wasted no time in giving his opponent a taste of what was to come, bruising Fielding’s ribs with a huge body shot and sending him to the mat in the first round.
The 6ft 1in Liverpudlian recovered to get back on his feet, but the onslaught continued and he was knocked down again by another body shot in the second round.
A blow to the head sent 31-year-old Fielding to the floor for a third time in the third round, and it was when Alvarez’s relentless body shots sent Fielding crashing a fourth time that the referee decided he had seen enough.
He fought the absolute elite. The biggest star in boxing, and he was brave. Head high @Rocky87Fielding— Carl Frampton MBE (@RealCFrampton) December 16, 2018
Fielding, making a first defence of the title he won against Tyron Zeuge in July, managed to exchange some shots with his 5ft 9in opponent in the second round.
But he could not put his height advantage to good use and ultimately was outclassed by the world’s highest-paid athlete.
In October, the Alvarez signed a five-year, 11-fight contract worth a minimum 365million dollars (£290m).