By Jamie Bourne
On Saturday at Elland Road – the home of Leeds United Football Club – Lee Selby will make the sixth defence of his IBF featherweight title against unbeaten British rival, Josh Warrington.
The Champion earned his crown back in 2015 by beating the previously-unbeaten Evgeny Gradovich. Selby’s skills were on full display that night as he completely out-boxed the Russian and claimed a technical decision – joining the elite level of fighters in the 126-pound division.
“Lightning” Lee made his first trip across the pond for the first defence of his strap, taking on former World Champion, Fernando Montiel. It was tricky fight for the newly-crowned champion, as the challenger proved to be an awkward customer. After twelve hard-fought rounds, the Welshman walked away with a unanimous decision.
His last outing saw Selby outpoint Eduardo Ramirez, who entered the ring full of confidence and boasting an unbeaten record. That confidence was short-lived, though, as Selby utilised his dazzling speed and elusive movement to secure another unanimous decision victory.
He now faces a new challenge in the form of the “Leeds Warrior” Josh Warrington, who will be hoping that home advantage and the support of his loyal local fans will give him an advantage in his quest to end Selby’s Championship reign.
Warrington burst onto the domestic scene with a couple of impressive performances over British title level competitors and built his profile by headlining shows in his hometown of Leeds. After impressive wins over fringe world-level competitors Joel Brunker and Patrick Hyland, he was rewarded with a fight against former IBF super-bantamweight champion, Kiko Martinez.
The Spaniard presented a tough challenge to the improving Warrington, with plenty of experience of fighting at world level, and in the UK, having fought here five times previously. Despite being past his prime, the Veteran made the Yorkshireman work for his victory, as they endured a gruelling twelve-round contest. Warrington’s tireless work-rate and relentless punch output earned him his most impressive victory to date.
Before earning his shot against Selby, Warrington had one more obstacle to overcome in the form of Denmark’s Denis Ceylan. An emphatic 10th-round stoppage provided him with his dream opportunity to fight for a world title belt.
Now, after months of build-up and trash talking, the bad blood will be settled in a mouth-watering all-British encounter on Saturday night.
Check out our predictions below.
Jamie Bourne – JayTB__
Personally, I cannot foresee any outcome other than a Lee Selby victory.
Selby has made a career of beating fighters who like to pressure their opponent and sustain a high pace. Joel Brunker, Evgeny Gradovich and Fernando Montiel all looked to force Selby on the back-foot and keep him restricted to the ropes. All three were unsuccessful and were defeated comprehensively.
Although, Warrington is slightly more skilled than some of Selby’s previous opponents, he will still struggle to land flush punches and put combinations together.
During the early rounds, Warrington will attempt to set the tone and establish an early lead; whilst Selby will look to silence the hostile crowd and get a rhythm going.
As the fight progresses into the middle stages, I see the Champion growing in confidence as his punches land at a higher frequency and his fluid movement makes the challenger grow increasingly frustrated.
With the crowd silenced and the hometown fighter behind on the scorecards, I see the Welshman winning the majority of the later rounds and cruising to a unanimous decision victory.
Neither of the two combatants possess knockout power, so I am not expecting any kind of real drama to occur during the fight. After a fast-paced opening few rounds, I see Selby finding his groove and boxing his way to an easy points decision.
Selby via Decision
Charlie Griffiths – Charlie_Griff90
The Game Plans – A lot of fighters in press conferences tell their opponent on fight night “It will only be me and you in the ring and no one can help you,” Josh Warrington, however, will be hoping that isn’t the case for him this weekend. What he lacks in skill compared to Lee Selby, he is expecting to more than make up on in grit and determination – aided by a ‘rioting’ loyal Leeds following. He will see Lee Selby’s walk on as a way to effectively go one or two nil up in rounds; hoping it bothers him so much that it puts him off his early game plan. It’s slightly unfair to put this down completely to a fight of brains vs brawn (neither hit anywhere near hard enough to be described as brawn in the grand scheme of things). But Warrington knows just how up for this his supporters will be, so there is no way his game plan won’t involve using them.
If the Warrington fan base are going to treat this like a football match: then so should Selby. In what will be my only football metaphor in this prediction, he should look to keep the ball and quieten the crowd. The boxing equivalent is to not get into a standoff and excite the crowd, not eat any unnecessary shots, make Warrington miss wildly and not get greedy in any exchanges. Anyone that has seen Lee Selby even a handful of times will know those traits are exactly what he has in his arsenal. The “Welsh Mayweather” nickname may have been extreme, but it did give a good insight into his skillset and boxing IQ.
The Early Rounds – Warrington for me spends the early rounds looking for a scrap, not wanting Selby to win cheap easy rounds. If he’s given up an early round, he will want Selby to have worked for it so that he struggles later on. Selby is too clever for that, though, and he picks Warrington off – giving himself an early lead.
The Middle Rounds – At this point Warrington will surely know he’s in with someone who is a few levels above him. The frustration of not being able to stand and trade, plus knowing Selby has started to build up a lead, will mean he be forced to go more gung-ho, which will in turn kick even more life into the crowd. These rounds are probably his best chance to land flush on Selby and see how it bothers him. Lee has a history of maybe becoming a bit too relaxed, and with Warrington not willing to let up all night, there will be a stage in the fight even, if it’s only for a round or two, that Josh believes he’s getting the better of it. Lee will have to weather a storm like he did when he got floored early by American, Eric Hunter. Once the storm was weathered against Hunter, he got straight back to doing what he did best and won a points decision.
The Late Rounds – Warrington’s plan B – if plan A is to try and get Selby out early – must be to take it late and not relent on the work rate. Unfortunately for him, I feel he may be feeling the pace by this point, with Selby picking good shots all night and Warrington only getting minimal success. With all that energy and confidence sapped from the early buzz the crowd gave him, I believe Selby will see out the later rounds without not getting involved too much at all.
The Decision – You would feel even being champion, Selby will have to be very much obviously better than Warrington on Saturday night to win a decision in Leeds – but my belief is: he will be. I feel the Welshman wins anything between 10-2 and 8-4, although the scorecards will probably read a bit closer than the fight actually was. There’s levels to this sport and on Saturday night, I think we’ll see that between these two. Warrington I’m sure will come again, he has too much of a strong following not too – but Selby wins this one comfortably for me.
Selby via Decision
Paul Hortop – PabsOfCardiff
This fight has been brewing for a quite few years now, and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to give my prediction for Jamie. We have both watched Lee Selby over the years and we are excited as he prepares to go into battle with mandatory challenger, Josh Warrington.
Knowing Lee – and having followed his career – I know how calm he is about this challenge. Also, how determined he is to go out there and play the role of the spoiler, but at the same time get the respect he deserves of the Leeds faithful for what will unfold on Saturday night.
Lee is the taller fighter and can box off the front foot if needed, but also can fight off the back foot by using his ring craft and reach advantage.
I think Josh has improved over the last year, and has obviously done well to get into the mandatory position. However, come fight night Saturday, Lee Selby will show a lot of people how good he is – and that the fight with Carl Frampton in Belfast is one he will surely relish. My prediction is a unanimous decision for Lee Selby.
Selby via Decision