By: Oliver McManus
IBF world champion Josh Warrington looks to defend his featherweight title for a third time when he faces Sofiane Takoucht this Saturday. Having cast his eyes across the horizon and to unifications Stateside, another fight in Leeds arrives very much as a ‘bonus’ for his home city.
Warrington’s first two world title bouts – against Lee Selby and Carl Frampton – were full-throated, high-tempo encounters with merely the edge of your seat required. His latest, against Kid Galahad, resulted in a more stuttery, cagey affair to test the temperament of Warrington but he scraped past. Takoucht represents a separate kettle of fish and, Warrington will hope, a more routine night of work.
The French fighter, obscurely nicknamed ‘Babyface’ despite looking every bit his 33 years, is an experienced operator having been professional since 2006. In 2010 he won the ‘Golden Gloves’ – awarded to the best French boxer each year – for his win against Oleg Yefimovych to become European champion. Since then his career has stalled substantially as he lost then regained the EBU title whilst perpetually staying busy in six and eight rounders.
Two fights for the IBF International strap, against win-some-lose-some opponents, has seen Takoucht installed at 4th in the IBF rankings. Indeed he’ll represent the first official southpaw challenge for Warrington since Dennis Tubieron in April 2015; though Kid Galahad did dally with the stance in their fight.
His sticky southpaw stance would look to be his greatest hope to upset the applecart with Warrington visibly struggling whenever Galahad operated from southpaw. Warrington was unable to dip the knees and utilise his ferocious work-rate against Galahad and was nullified for much of the fight as a result. If Takoucht can replicate those ‘spoiler’ tactics in order to disrupt the forthright pocket-pressure fighting of Warrington then it could be a very, very long night for the Leeds boxer.
Should all go to plan for the defending champion then he could move to 30-0 in breezy fashion; Warrington has proven himself against elite fighters and Takoucht has yet to step up from borderline continental. His fight against Carl Frampton was a perfect display of self-confidence transferring into the ring with a perfect game plan.
He refused to box recklessly nor get carried away when he dropped Frampton in the first round but remained resolute in boxing in bursts to ensure he was picking up rounds. It really was an impressive performance, dare you say ‘a coming of age’. Takoucht could be a banana skin but it seems more likely he’s a toffee apple ripe for Warrington to get stuck into.
The undercard sees Zelfa Barrett defend his Commonwealth super featherweight belt against Jordan McCorry. Barrett, still just 26, is becoming increasingly joyous to watch with a real respect for the ‘craft’ of boxing. ‘Brown Flash’ has grown rapidly as a fighter to collect 22 wins since turning pro in 2014 but, arguably, his sole loss has been his biggest blessing. That blemish came against Ronnie Clark in February 2018 and it is evident just how much Barrett took from that experience.
There was no licking of wounds after a very close and enthralling contest but an immediate desire to better himself and correct that wrong. A rematch, for various reasons, has yet to materialise but he has already pushed on to a different level. Against Leon Woodstock in June he boxed beautifully from range with a real slick, sleek finish to his work – nothing scrappy, nothing done by half measures. In a way he’s an ‘old school’ fighter prioritising the technique over any showmanship but – in doing so – he’s emerged as a breath of fresh air in a crowded division.
McCorry will be facing his third Frank Warren fighter in the 2019 – having already boxed Sam Bowen and Archie Sharp – but he’ll be hoping to register his first such win. Three of his last four fights have been losses. The Cambuslang man has proven himself to be a gritty operator to test the top domestic fighters but he’s yet to go one further and mount a serious challenge.
Hot prospect Lyndon Arthur is rewarded for his patience with the first title shot of his career; the Moston boxer has been picking up the wins without much fuss since debuting in 2016. Now 15-0 he’ll face Emmanuel Anim for the vacant Commonwealth light heavyweight title. The former WSB boxer has yet to look troubled with Charles Adamu the only opponent not to be stopped or kiss the canvas.
Four knockouts since have seen Arthur hit a nice rhythm and he always looks slightly more menacing than his previous contest. This fight is a real opportunity to loosen up and make a statement to open doors. Anim isn’t expected to be a stiff test, having campaigned at super middle for most of his career, but he can swing speculatively and that’s always a risk.
Fellow Team GB representative Troy Williamson gets his first title crack: against Navid Mansouri for the WBO Intercontinental super welterweight title. The fight represents a significant step up for Williamson as he fights a former English champion but the Darlington man has been relishing such a test for a while. He finds himself on a three fight knockout streak but Mansouri is likely to test his technical ability.
Mansouri has boxed exclusively in Spain since 2018 with four wins and a loss. He is a proven title fighter, mainly at super welter, with a highlight win over Sam Sheedy. The MTK fighter is penciled in to challenge Stephen Danyo at super welter in November so perhaps hedging his bets for this one.
A hatful of six rounders feature with Shabaz Masoud, Mark Heffron, Shakiel Thompson, John Jouce and Reece Mould all in action. Callum Simpson and, debutants, George Davey and Muhammad Ali greeting the early visitors in a trio of four rounders.