By: Oliver McManus
Josh Warrington embarks on the second defense of his IBF featherweight title this Saturday when he faces Kid Galahad in a contest pitting Leeds’ home hero against the prickly-natured Sheffield-based mandatory challenger. Neither are shy of the spotlight and Warrington has been in full song surrounding his technical superiority whilst Galahad and, trainer, Dominic Ingle are sanguine that they have spotted weaknesses.
An aggressively ran marketing campaign from BT Sport is aimed at positioning Warrington as an eternal underdog; ‘written off 28 times’, when in reality questions have merely been raised as to the ceiling of Warrington’s ability, is the strapline spearheading BT’s adverts. A bloodied war with, kingpin at the time, Lee Selby saw Warrington wrestle the IBF belt away from Wales whilst he outgunned Carl Frampton in an assured display of aggression last December – ‘underdog’ is a severe injustice for the defending champion.
Kid Galahad, who was suspended between 2014 and 2016 after testing positive for stanozolol, remains unmoved by the ruthless performances of his adversary as he insists he’s “better than Frampton in every department”. The 29 year old will be looking for a far more composed gameplan that of Frampton, who was rocked in each of the first two rounds, as he gains a foothold in the contest from early doors. Three contests in 2018 showed a maturity from Galahad that has, arguably, been missing from previous performances with a measured tempo that allowed him to pick off rounds with relative ease.
Against Irving Berry (his first contest of 2018) he was able to strike up a fairly relaxed rhythm from the off and climbed through the gears in nonchalant fashion. An innocuous left hook caught Berry flush on the chin having narrowly missed moments earlier and the contest was over, just like that. In his other contests, against Toka Kahn Clary and Brayan Mairena, there was a tendency to favor a looping right hook to the body whilst remaining sharp with his upper body movement.
The defending champion, a 2/7 favorite in actuality, has cultivated a reputation as a puncher over recent fights: in thanks to his gritty, come-forward adventures against Selby and Warrington. Marginally younger, aged 28, energy has always been a huge plus for Warrington and he has frequently shown he’s the fresher fighter when championship rounds beckon; against Selby and Frampton he was effective in efficiently conserving energy by fighting in bursts of full-throttle commitment and stepping off the gas intuitively.
Such audaciously mature performances against two established featherweight figures, rightly, set the division on notice as to the little warrior from Leeds: a fighter whose ability was once questioned has rounded out his ability over the next couple years and now fights on resoundingly more than just “heart”. Make no mistake, however, that raw passion for fighting and success marks him out from Galahad – a fighter whose desire has been questioned in the build-up – and instantly gives Warrington the immediate ‘invincible’ mental edge.
Given the success he has found since inking a deal with Frank Warren, in 2017, you simply can find no logical ground for betting against the reigning IBF champion because, as we know, he always saves his best for when he’s written off.
The undercard sees a double scoop of domestic dust-ups as Zelfa Barrett and Lyon Woodstock clash for the vacant Commonwealth super featherweight title and JJ Metcalf and Jason Welborn compete for the vacant Commonwealth super welterweight belt. Both Barrett and Woodstock are no stranger to ‘getting involved’ with fellow rising prospects – both suffered their first loss last year: against Ronnie Clark and Archie Sharp, respectively- and display a refreshing eagerness to waste no time in getting back in at the deep end.
A rough and tumble contest against Clark, in which Barrett was dropped in the sixth, resulted in a marginal loss (via majority decision) for ‘Brown Flash’ with the fight proving a tough learning ground the nephew of Pat – himself a former European champion. An immediate rematch with Clark was touted but circumstance convened to frustrate the 25 year old and he has been limited to just two stay-busy bouts in the intervening sixteen months. Since turning professional in 2014 he has advanced to a record of 21-1 with notable victories over Chris Conwell (a fourth round knockout) and a one round destruction of Jordan Ellison. Certainly a power puncher with a penchant for ballistically hammering away with body shots, the only way Barrett really knows how to fight is with fire.
His counterpart for this contest is himself no stranger to a scrap with his contest against Sharp (in October) a contender for domestic fight of the year but, largely, is far more laid back when in the ring. Philosophically-oriented outside of the ring with a love for relaxing by watching documentaries, you can see this bleed into his fighting style with an almost spiritual aura encompassing him. The 25 year old has proven to be a strong counter puncher and that should serve as a bold contrast to the rugged aggression of Barrett but, he too, has the desire to go against the stereotypical grain of a professional boxer. The ‘0’ has never mattered for Woodstock and it’s always been about fighting the best to be the best.
Much like rollercoasters you probably shouldn’t watch this fight if you’re of a nervous disposition because this is going to loosen a bowel or two.
JJ Metcalf, the original opponent for Liam Williams on December 22nd, finds himself back in a big fight having brushed off the niggle with an eight round knockout over Santos Medrano back in April. The Merseyside fighter is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to momentum with just two fights in the last 20 months but when he has boxed he’s looked mighty impressive. Five knockouts on the trot against guys who rarely get stopped, a mixture of journeymen and continental contenders, are a testament to the sheer size of Metcalf: a relatively big super welterweight, in terms of physique, he is able to hold his punches superbly.
The same, however, can be said for Welborn who will likely come into the ring the bigger man having campaigned at middleweight for much of 2018 so you can almost guarantee this will be a case of ‘swinging and slugging’. The 33 year old’s last fight came on the undercard of Wilder-Fury with a world title challenge against Jarrett Hurd and Welborn was caught unawares by a huge body shots in the fourth round. Against Metcalf he’ll be facing an opponent of a far more level calibre and, indeed, Welborn will be confident that, having nullified Tommy Langford on two occasions, he’s a level above his unbeaten opponent.
A trio of fights that go without the hype and hyperbole of pay-per-view yet are bound to deliver far more bang for your buck than ‘main event’ from Las Vegas just hours afterwards. The perennial underdog for once finds himself a favourite but he can’t afford to slip up against an untested challenger and the undercard, well, that’s anyone’s guess.