By Frank Warren
ON WEDNESDAY WE came to Leeds to officially ‘cut the ribbon’ to launch the countdown towards what I believe will be the biggest sporting event in the history of the city.
Of course, I am talking about the opening press conference for the IBF world featherweight title fight between Lee Selby and his mandatory challenger, the local hero Josh Warrington.
We were delighted to announce that this blockbuster encounter will take place at Elland Road, the world famous home of Leeds United, where Josh is a devoted regular on matchdays and he will now get the chance to become his home city’s first world champion on the hallowed turf.
I think Josh has come on leaps and bounds in his last couple of fights and is more than ready to step into world title contention.
In his first fight for us against Kiko Martinez he suffered from a bad hand injury in just the second round, but showed the heart and fortitude to stick at it and record a, in my opinion, clear cut victory against a decorated and experienced campaigner.
Last time out he was very impressive in what was a final eliminator and, under considerable pressure, he showed that he had the bit between his teeth and broke the spirit of an also unbeaten opponent in Dennis Ceylan.
Now it is onto world title business on May 19, live and exclusive on BT Sport and BoxNation.
I firmly believe the styles of Josh and Lee are going to complement each other, I really do. It is going to be a highly competitive fight and the styles will make it a good fight.
Josh is like a hurricane when he comes out of his corner and it will take all of Lee’s renowned guile to withstand the inevitable onslaught.
I think most people suspect this one is nailed on to be a nail biting 12 rounder and, if it is, it is sure to be an entertaining one. I see it a little bit differently and I’ve got a feeling this one will quickly come to the boil.
After all, there is no love lost between the pair and, let’s get it right, Lee has managed to avoid fighting Josh for a long time and we had to navigate Josh into the No.1 spot to force the fight.
I think a lot of people will fancy Lee to retain his title and the odds are likely to reflect this, but I think the fight taking place in what is sure to be an absolute cauldron in Leeds in front of fanatical supporters is going to make it tough for him.
He won’t get things all his own way, that is for sure.
Josh believes his time has come and I tend to go along with his thinking. Lee has had a fantastic run since winning the title in May 2015, but he has now turned 30 and in Josh’s mind he will be there for the taking.
Timing is everything in this game and is what boxing is all about. The perfect punch is about timing and sometimes making the match at the right time is much the same.
However, probably the only thing we pretty much know for sure at the moment is that we are going to be in for some night and it will be one the people of Leeds – and beyond – will remember for a long, long time.
I am hoping this will be the start of boxing becoming a boom industry in Leeds.
With Carl Frampton ready and waiting to be added to the mix, there much more to come later in the year and the whole thing is such an exciting prospect for both the fighters and the fans.
I’D LIKE TO take this opportunity to wish our man Craig Evans every success this weekend when he challenges for the vacant WBO International lightweight title in Adler, Russia.
Craig takes on the 20-0 Roman Andreev at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in what is a big opportunity for him because victory will put him in the No.1 spot and in position to challenge for the world title.
The 28-year-old lightweight is such a refreshing individual to deal with as a promoter because he never, ever ducks anybody and will fight anyone.
Very much like Gary Corcoran, he will go anywhere to fight and doesn’t even ask who the opponent is. That is his mentality because he is a fighter.
It is a tough, tough job for Craig, but this kid is as game as they come. It might not be the most daunting assignment he has ever signed up for though, when you consider he went the distance with Vasyl Lomachenko as an amateur in the world championships in 2009!
Good luck Craig.
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