By Frank Warren
I SHUDDER TO think just how many boxing events I have put on or attended over the years, but Saturday night’s epic spectacle at Elland Road is now right up there with the clutch that will live longest in the memory.
It was a night that ticked all the boxes. The weather was with us, a crowd well in excess of 20,000, as good an atmosphere as you are likely to experience anywhere, the Kaiser Chiefs setting the mood before the main event, then the local hero Josh Warrington realising his dream and doing what no man from Leeds has done before in winning a world title off a fine champion in Lee Selby.
To coin a phrase, it couldn’t happen to a nicer fella. And that goes for his Dad, Sean, too and the rest of the team, who are an absolute pleasure to work with. I couldn’t be happier for them.
Josh is a driven individual determined to be the best he can be and represent his city, of which he is so proud.
The people of Leeds did Josh proud at the local place of worship and I can’t think of a better atmosphere I have experienced at a show in England for a long, long time.
I was thrilled with Josh’s performance because, although I strongly fancied him to win it, he exceeded my expectations with his exploits.
The first two fights Josh had with us proved to be valuable building blocks towards his crowning glory – Kiko Martinez and Dennis Ceylan – and it was the Ceylan fight that convinced me he was really ready and the timing was right.
We promoted Lee’s previous fight against Eduardo Ramirez in December and, looking at the two fights, made me think it was Josh’s moment in time.
His father Sean has done an outstanding job as his son’s trainer. He got his fitness and tactics to perfection on Saturday.
Home advantage is important and I know I bang on about it, but the most important aspect is the boost it provides for the home fighter, much more so than any hostility encountered by the away man.
Fighters like Lee, who is a good pro, can deal with that and very few can’t. It is all about the impact on the home favourite and the lift it gives them like Ricky Hatton when he took on Kostya Tszyu or Joe Calzaghe when he faced Mikkel Kessler – or Frank Bruno when he took the title off Oliver McCall.
It just got more out of them.
Pushing the euphoria to one side just for a moment, I don’t want the competence of one person to be overlooked or go unchecked. The scoring of the Canadian judge Alan Davis should not be swept under the carpet just because the right man got the decision.
Scoring the fight two rounds in favour of Selby is incomprehensible. Lee knew the score and there was no emotion at all or arm raising from him when the card was read out in his favour.
These judges need to be made accountable. If football officials have a stinker they get dropped and boxing needs to employ similar measures.
It is not about being bias, as some people might suggest. Josh won the fight by a wide margin and only one score of 116-112 came close to giving him the recognition he deserved.
And a mention to the scribe who described us as cheerleaders, he needs to watch the fight back again. Selby’s reaction after the fight says it all, it wasn’t the reaction of a fighter who had only lost by one round.
What was very clear after the event in Leeds is that Josh is now in need of some well-earned rest and family time. Of course we would have liked the winner against Carl Frampton but he needs at least a month off and that would not give him enough time to prepare for the fight.
Carl will still have his big night at Windsor Park, scheduled for August 18, but a fight against Josh will have to wait for now.
Make no mistake though, these two will meet and it will be a massive showdown on BT Sport. It will be a huge occasion between the two biggest draws in British boxing outside of Anthony Joshua at the moment.
Elsewhere on the card, Nicola Adams is really looking the part now and her destruction of the usually durable Soledad del Valle Frias tells me it is now the time to step up to world title contention.
Injuries are an unfortunate by-product of boxing and there were two sustained on the undercard that brought about a premature end to fights.
Darren Tetley v Mason Cartwright was going right to the wire before Mason suffered a horrific laceration to his lip that ended his night, before Jack Catterall’s opponent Christopher Sebire couldn’t carry on due to dislocating his shoulder.
These things happen, I am afraid and I am sure the main event provided enough thrills and spills to make up for a couple of curtailed contests on the card.
Next up is the Manchester Arena on June 9 where I am confident we will see Terry Flanagan become another current world champion added to our roster – alongside Billy Joe Saunders, Zolani Tete and Josh – as well as the return of Tyson Fury.
After a magical night in Leeds, it can’t come soon enough.