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, pictured below, 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.”
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.”