First Direct Arena, Leeds
Josh Warrington (21-0-0) vs Joel Brunker (28-1-0)
After a one month break Matchroom Boxing put on a lively affair at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, headlined by local favourite Josh Warrington.
Warrington was challenging the hardy Ozzy Brunker who had only one defeat on his record, a ninth round stoppage loss to Lee Selby at the back end of 2014. The fight was touted by many as a prime opportunity for Warrington to show exactly where he is in terms of challenging on the world stage and what his chances would be in a bout against Selby.
Warrington’s stock has risen markedly over the last two years, from fighting in small-hall events, slowly building his reputation to challenging and beating high level opposition in Rendall Munroe, Martin Lindsay, Davide Dieli and Dennis Tubieron, capturing British, European and Commonwealth titles.
On his journey Warrington has built one of the biggest fan bases in British boxing today. Being a Leeds United fan automatically makes you a Josh Warrington fan it seems, at least Warrington has been giving the fans something to cheer about!
The faithful packed the arena creating an amazing atmosphere to greet the fighters. Thankfully (At least from my TV perspective) the excitement didn’t boil over into violence as has been seen at some of Warrington’s previous bouts.
There were many top fighters ringside for this, most notably the big man himself, Tyson Fury. Fury provided some great insight as always into his predictions for his big night in Germany. He’s “As serious as cancer”.
Warrington started fast, too fast for the come-forward Brunker. Fast hands dominated for Warrington, in-out shake it all about, Brunker didn’t know what had hit him.
This was Warrington’s time to shine and his star was most certainly bright.
Brunker had his moments but Warrington was simply too skilful on the night. The pressure told and it looked late on like Warrington may get the stoppage, but it wasn’t to be. A real masterclass of a performance. A strong jab supported by hooks to body and head, plus the rest.
After the fight Warrington talked of how he stuck to his game plan of not getting involved in a toe-to-toe war with the hardy Brunker, a plan that worked perfectly.
Warrington took the victory on the scorecards 120-108 from all three judges.
The Leeds crowd were chanting the name of Lee Selby for Warrington’s next opponent. For me, that would be a step too far, at the moment. Selby has a title fight lined up against the veteran Montiel in October and I feel Warrington should build his experience before stepping up again. Eddie Hearn eluded to the possibility of a summer bout against Selby at Leeds United’s Elland Road.
There are some interesting options in Britain, albeit some at super-feather, such as the mouthy Mitchell Smith.
Warrington has the misfortune of plying his trade in one of the most skill-packed weight divisions in the sport. At world level, in addition to Selby there are the likes of Nicholas Walters, Gary Russell Jr and Lomachenko. Perhaps a fight against someone like Gradovich could be another good staging fight?
The one thing Warrington is lacking is one-punch power and has a poor KO% as a result. However, if he keeps turning the skill on like he did against Brunker this won’t be an issue.
If Warrington can keep fit, keep focussed and get the right opponents he could make it all the way. Certainly a career to keep an eye on.
There were some decent fights on the undercard, most notably for me was Lowe vs Speight, with Lowe taking the vacant English featherweight title by 9th round TKO.
There was also a superb performance from Andy Towend defeating Lee Glover for the English super featherweight title by 7th round KO.
Martin Murray continued his campaign at super middleweight with a bizarre victory against the veteran Torres. Torres went down a staggering seven times in the fight. He seemed to take a knee every so often, at the same time as staying on his fight after taking some massive blows from Murray. Not an exceptional night from the St Helen’s man who is now looking for a world title fight against Abraham.
Tony Bellew put in an average performance against the tricky Kulikauskis, but got the job done. The fight was at short notice and I don’t imagine the motivation levels would be anywhere near those for a world title fight.
A notable absentee was Callum Johnson, Commonwealth games medallist from Boston, Lincolnshire who was set to make his debut for Matchroom, but fell foul to illness. All the best on your recovery Callum.
A good night of boxing with the promise of far more to come from Warrington and co.