Britain's Josh Warrington (31-1-1, 8 KOs) will defend his IBF Featherweight world championship against mandatory challenger

Who Should Josh Warrington Face Next?

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The Leeds Warrior Josh Warrington (31-1-1) became a two-time IBF Featherweight World Champion last night. He stopped tough Spaniard Kiko Martinez (43-11-2) in the seventh round after flooring Martinez in the first. It was an exciting contest in front of a near-sellout thirteen-thousand at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on DAZN.

Warrington proved that he can still win at the world level after doubts over how much he had left due to a stoppage loss to previously unheralded Mexican Mauricio ‘Bronco’ Lara. We saw a different version of Warrington last night. Instead of the sheer volume we are used to, he focused on quality, clean power punches and showed his class.

Now that Josh Warrington is the IBF Champion, Let me talk you through the options available for his next fight, which include a grudge match trilogy, a massive domestic clash and another unknown Mexican.

Massive Domestic Clash: Josh Warrington vs Leigh Wood

The fight that is probably the biggest out of all of the options available is a blockbuster domestic clash with Nottingham’s Leigh Wood. 8 months ago this fight would’ve been completely out of the question but since then Leigh Wood scored a massive upset against China’s Xu Can to win the WBA featherweight championship.

Next, he defended it in a 9,000 sell-out in his home city also as an underdog against top amateur Belfast’s Michael Conlan where he came back from a first-round Knockdown and was massively behind on the cards after 6 rounds to produce a stunning 12th-round KO in one of the best fights in recent years.

Leigh Wood is the secondary Titleist, although the ‘Super’ champion Leo Santa Cruz has not defended his title in three years and isn’t expected to. In that case, Wood could be elevated to full champion and Warrington Wood would be a WBA/IBF unification. With their vast respective fanbases, there is no doubt this fight can draw big crowds in excess of 25,000 at either Elland Road or The City Ground.

They are both under the same promotional banner in Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and so this fight should not be difficult to make, especially with Hearn promising Wood a City Ground fight and Josh Warrington happy to fight him there. Finally, this would be a major fight for sports streaming service DAZN in the UK as they would be able to deliver it on their platform Non-Pay-Per-View

Unfinished Business: Warrington Lara Trilogy

Many hardcore boxing fans will see Warrington as having been ‘gifted’ a title shot he did not deserve and that instead, it should’ve been the man who stopped him as an 11-1 underdog in ‘the bubble’ in February 2021 getting the title shot. They did a rematch at Headingley in September last year, which disappointingly ended in a cut after just two rounds.

Martinez wanted to fight Warrington as his voluntary, but now some fans are calling for Warrington to do a trilogy with Mauricio Lara who returned to the ring earlier this month in a very entertaining fight and major knockout stateside. There would be a lot of hype behind a trilogy and it would still; be a massive fight in the UK.

However, others feel the fight is not as big as it could be or not, the most desirable next fight and that instead the 24-year old Lara should work on building his profile as he is still early into his career. Lara could return again stateside and then box on the next Warrington undercard. These two fights would do great for his popularity and then fans can really call for him to face Warrington in a trilogy.

Mexican #1 Challenger

The #1 challenger for Josh Warrington’s IBF Featherweight Title is an unknown Mexican called Luis Alberto Lopez (28-2) who is coming off two decent wins against unbeaten prospect Gabriel Flores and Isaac Lowe. The wins are not at a world level and due to Lopez being an unknown quantity, it would be a very underwhelming opponent for Warrington to face.

Josh Warrington’s Other Options

WBC Champion Mark Magsayo faces Rey Vargas in July so that belt is tied up. Should WBA Super champion LSC return, he would have to face Leigh Wood? WBO champion Navarette does not have a fight scheduled but is expected to return in the early summer possibly against Abraham Nova.

Conclusion

The Best option for Josh Warrington in my opinion would be to face WBA Featherweight Champion Leigh Wood at The City Ground in the late summer. The WBA should allow that to be a unification, especially with LSC not defending his title, but if they do not, then make the fight anyway and put both belts on the poster and the average fan will not know or care about the difference. Domestic fights are the best type of fights to make and there should be no reason why Warrington-Wood cannot be made next.

By Darshan Desai

Also Read: 8 Ways DAZN Can Grow Their Boxing Audience in the UK

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