By: Ste Rowen
Over the next three weeks, 3 of the 4 featherweight champions of the world defend their IBF, WBC and WBA belts. First to take to the ring will be IBF champion, Lee Selby, who stakes his IBF strap against Josh Warrington in a long awaited domestic clash.
The two will meet on Warrington’s home turf, and dream venue in Leeds’ Elland Road stadium. It’s a matchup that’s been long in the making, even before the two boxers moved over to Frank Warren’s, Queensberry Promotions from Matchroom, and in the ‘Face to Face’ programme which brought the two together to discuss prefight, Warrington said the rivalry stemmed from Selby’s disrespect towards the Leeds native,
Photo Credit: Frank Warren Twitter Account
‘In the early days, when the rivalry was building we shook hands and you seemed a bit timid about wanting to shake hands. I respected you from that day because you’d achieved everything. You did nothing from then on but downplayed my achievements…There’s been times when you’ve said, ‘Easy work. I’ll knock him out. Not on my level’ You’ve changed your opinion many times.’
Selby, 26-1 (9KOs) drew on his time when the two fighters were under the same promotional banner,
‘Your promoter at the time bought the titles off me in order to build you up in front of your crowd, otherwise you wouldn’t have had the Commonwealth title…Built you up ready for me to knock you out.’
The Welshman was last out in December on the James Degale vs Caleb Truax undercard when he dominated the previously unbeaten Eduardo Ramirez to a clear unanimous decision. That was Lee’s 4th defence of the world title he won back in 2015 after scoring an 8th round technical decision win over Evgeny Gradovich, a bout he was clearly ahead in before the head clash which ended the fight.
Since then, Selby’s fought away from home, and at Wembley stadium, so he’s not afraid of the hostile environment he’s expected to walk into on the night,
At the press conference earlier this week he said,
‘I should be ready to defend my world title anywhere in the world so it’s only 5 hours up the road from where I live. It’s not so much of a lion’s den…It’s just another defence.’
‘I treat every opponent the same. I don’t train for a certain style or opponent… The guys in Leeds want you to win, but the whole country is backing me.’
Warrington, 26-0 (6KOs) hasn’t fought since October, when he stopped 18-0-2, Dennis Ceylan in the 10th round and the man from Leeds has built a strong record, collecting some solid names, including victories over Rendall Munroe, Patrick Hyland and everyone’s favourite Spanish boxer, Kiko Martinez. Warrington, like at most events in the build for this featherweight world title clash, was once again in buoyant mood,
‘Last few months I’ve really put my body through hell…After all the talk of me and Lee fighting it’s come down to this camp and I’m gonna give it everything…I feel like this is meant to be…It’s come around how I always planned it.
‘There’s no need for anymore talking. On Saturday I get to punch you in the face… There’s no way you can or will be able to prepare for what you’re gonna expect on Saturday night.
Both fighters know that it’s not just a world title on the line on Saturday. Carl Frampton is still looking for someone to fight at Windsor Park in August, and this weekend’s winner is expected to be the opponent. But, with WBC champ, Gary Russell Jr facing off against the unbeaten Golden Boy prospect, Joel Diaz also on Saturday; the rematch of Santa Cruz vs Abner Mares in three weeks’ time, and Oscar Valdez making a steady return from injury since his defence against Scott Quigg two months ago, there’s plenty of options for the man who has his hand raised on the 19th in Leeds.
On the undercard…
Jack Catterall vs Mohammed Kani
The top of Saturday night’s undercard sees Jack Catterall 20-0 (11KOs) come up against 14-1 (0KOs) Mohammed Kani, to defend his WBO Inter-Continental super lightweight belt. Catterall had an impressive 2017 which included a 12-round decision victory over Tyrone Nurse to earn the British title, and he has already fought once this year, knocking out the journeyman’s journeyman, Kevin Macauley 15-163-12, with a body 1st round body shot.
His opponent, Mohammed Kani, also a southpaw, will be fighting outside of France or Monaco, for the first time in his pro career, a career that faltered slightly when he dropped an 8-round decision to fellow Frenchman Laid Douadi 14-0-1.
Speaking to ‘British Boxers’, Warrington didn’t seem to concerned with his opponent,
‘I’ve had a lot of southpaw sparring and orthodox so it’s not an issue. I know I’ve prepared for this fight no matter who they put in front of us so, I’m confident of putting another loss on his record on Saturday.’
Nicola Adams vs Soledad del Valle Frias
Two-time Olympic gold medallist, Nicola Adams will fight in her first schedule 10-round bout, in just her 4th fight when she takes on 13-11-4, Soledad del Valle Frias a former three-time world title challenger.
Adams, so far has only gone as far as 4 rounds and although she’s taken on a relative veteran of the female boxing scene, Nicola is just taking it as any other fight. Speaking to BBC she said,
‘This is another step up for me on my professional journey to a professional world title…My camp has gone perfectly and I can’t wait to fight in a football stadium for the first time.
Ohara Davies vs Christopher Sebire
Ohara Davies makes his first return to the ring since linking up with Frank Warren, after cutting ties with Matchroom at the end of last year.
Davies, 16-1 (13KOs) is schedule to fight the unbeaten, Josh Leather, 13-0 next month, so Saturday’s bout is expected to be a keep busy exhibition for ‘Two Tanks’. His opponent Frenchman, Christopher Sebire 26-10-1 (9KOs) is fighting in Britain for the second consecutive time, losing a 10-round decision to 20-1, Paul Kamanga back in November.