By Keith Idec
Josh Warrington was more than ready for his step up Saturday night.
Warrington seemed to out-box Lee Selby convincingly, but settled for a split-decision victory and took the IBF featherweight title from the favored Welshman in a 12-round bout in Leeds, England, Warrington’s hometown. Their all-British battle drew a crowd of roughly 20,000 to Elland Road Football Ground in Leeds.
The 27-year-old Warrington (27-0, 6 KOs) pulled off an upset before an adoring hometown crowd. Selby was regularly listed as a 4-1 favorite before their bout began.
The 31-year-old Selby (26-2, 9 KOs), bloodied by cuts around both eyes, had defended the IBF featherweight crown four times before Warrington beat him.
Two judges – Phil Edwards (116-112) and Frank Lombardi (115-113) – scored their fight for Warrington. One judge, Alan Davis, gave the fight to Selby (115-113).
Warrington continued to land the harder shots during the 12th round, particularly his right hand. It appeared clear by then that the light-punching Selby probably needed a knockout to keep his title.
Just before the bell sounded to end the 11th round, Warrington hammered Selby with a hard right hand.
Warrington seemed to stun Selby with a right hand to the head when there was just under a minute left in the 10th round. As Selby tried to move away from him, Warrington was able to hit him with another flush overhand right that back Selby into the ropes.
Warrington connect with a left hook to the body and followed it up with an overhand right to the head with just over two minutes to go in the ninth round. Later in the ninth, Warrington drilled Selby with another left hook to the body and added a right hand that Selby complained landed on the back of his head.
Warrington landed two more right hands to Selby’s head after landing that questionable blow.
Selby landed a solid left hook that knocked Warrington off balance in the eighth round.
With cuts around both eyes, Selby began the seventh round strong. Warrington was able to land several power shots later in the seventh.
Warrington landed a damaging left-right combination with just under two minutes to go in the sixth round. A little later in the sixth, an accidental clash of heads caused a cut around Selby’s right eye.
The referee called for a ringside doctor to look Selby’s cuts, but the action resumed following a brief break in the action.
Warrington and Selby traded head and body shots in the third and fourth rounds, both of which were very competitive.
A cut opened around Selby’s left eye by the midway mark of the second round. That cut, which was ruled the result of an accidental clash of heads, bled badly for most of the final 10½ rounds.
Selby was the aggressor in the first round, but Warrington landed several body blows in the first three minutes. He also hit Selby with two left hooks to the head late in the first round that moved Selby toward the ropes.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.