Josh Warrington scored a stunning upset victory over Lee Selby to win the IBF world featherweight title in front of an ecstatic hometown crowd. The split decision victory proved to be historic, with Warrington being the first male fighter from Leeds to win a world title in boxing.
After an epic battle that saw Selby cut above both eyes following an accidental clash of heads, the judges scored the contest 16-112 115-113 113-115, resulting in the first ever world title for the 27-year old Leeds native.
The fight took place in front of a packed crowd at Ellen Road – the home ground of Leeds United Football Club – with hometown hero Warrington having the backing of the rowdy Leeds crowd.
With Warrington coming in as a 4-1 underdog and bookmakers heading into the fight behind Welsh native Selby. The outcome came as a little surprise come the final bell, with Warrington showcasing the best performance of his career.
The hostile home crowd provided plenty of encouragement for Warrington, who set a blistering pace at the beginning of the 12-round bout, with a terrific atmosphere present inside the open stadium venue.
It’s the fifth stadium fight to occur in just over a year, highlighting the resurgence of the UK boxing scene, yet there was something of an old school feel to the fight.
With Warrington receiving the firm backing of the local crowd and fighting on the ground of his beloved Leeds United, Selby was very much heading into the lion’s den. He was welcomed with a chorus of boos as he entered the ring, although the the 32-year old former champion claimed he would be at ease in front of the hostile crowd prior to the fight.
Warrington opened and closed the fight strongly, setting a frenetic pace that Selby struggled to keep up with, although the Welshmen did find more success in the middle rounds of the fight. It proved to be not enough on the judges score card, resulting in the first loss for nine years for the Welshman.
Many were surprised at just how impressive Warrington started the fight, who peppered his opponent with punches during the early exchanges, landing cleanly several times to take the opening round. The second was much the same, although a clash of heads did cause a cut to open above the left eye of Selby.
Known for his defensive style, Selby couldn’t implement his usual strategy of boxing off the back foot even though Warrington was frequently hunting him down in the ring. Instead, Selby sought to stand and trade with his opponent, a strategy that clearly benefited Warrington’s style.
By round six another clash of heads opened up a second cut above Selby’s right eye, much to chagrin of his corner. Despite concerns of a referee stoppage due to the cut, Selby fought on, getting much more joy towards the latter stages of the fight. His reach allowed him to land with more regularity, but his defensive work was still lacking compared to previous bouts.
Warrington’s aggression proved to be the winning factor, as he continued to pursue Selby throughout the final rounds, helping him land the biggest win of his career.
It’s now 27 victories from 27 fights for Josh Warrington, who can look forward to bigger and better fights going forward.