In back-to-back triumphs in 2018, the unbeaten Josh Warrington had to defy the pre-fight odds to emerge victorious. The Leeds star ripped the IBF featherweight title from Lee Selby in May, scoring a 12-round split decision, then followed with a convincing points win over former two-weight world titleholder Carl Frampton in December.
With more than a few non-believers converted, Warrington is now favored to defeat his next opponent at the Leeds Arena on Saturday.
In the opposite corner will be mandatory challenger Kid Galahad (real name Barry Awad). At the age of 29, Galahad, a crafty switch-hitter, is at the peak of his powers and he’s hungry for glory. A product of the famed Brendan Ingle gym in Sheffield, Galahad is a former British, Commonwealth and European champion at 122 pounds and his record is 26-0 (15 knockouts).
However, despite the challenger’s more than respectable credentials, the buildup has been hostile and there’s no love lost.
“Barry’s just a clown,” Warrington told The Ring. “He is there on merit, having won an eliminator, but it’s almost like he came out of nowhere. He had his ban (Galahad tested positive for a banned substance in 2015), beat a few muppets, got a final eliminator and now he’s here. I can’t overlook him because he’s earned a title shot, but he’s lucky to be boxing again after his drug scandal. It is kind of annoying (how easily Galahad was given the No. 1 spot with the IBF), but at this stage of training camp, with less than two weeks to go, I’m not dwelling on it.
“We’re close to the fight now, so I’m not looking at it like this is Barry from Sheffield, he’s been badmouthing me and I need to chin him. I’m looking at him like he’s a human being who’s standing in front of me, stopping me progressing. He’s trying to stop me from getting myself to the States for those big Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden nights.”
Warrington, who is rated No. 2 by The Ring at 126 pounds, is a hard man who loves combat. There’s no pretense about him; what you see is what you get. “The Leeds Warrior” had plenty of respect for Frampton as a fighter, but he does not believe Galahad is equipped to deal with the task ahead and predicts a painful evening for his opponent.
“He’s awkward, he’s elusive, but I won’t say he’s the most entertaining fighter,” Warrington offered. “He’s been gifted a massive opportunity and he’ll have prepared well for it. He lives in the gym, but I just don’t think he’s ready for this. Being fast-tracked to the top of the rankings won’t work in his favor, because his fights have all been at the domestic level. Even his final eliminator win over Toka Kahn Clary (UD 12) wasn’t the biggest of world-level names.
“Look down my record, all the names I’ve been in with, all those hard night, different styles, the different situations I’ve come through. That all falls into my favor. And he’s never had a crowd who will be this against him like this. I know he boxed in the States in his final eliminator, but this is a different kettle of fish. He’s not fighting an opponent who’s gonna give him everything his own way. I won’t just jump on him and force the pace, but I’ll be making him think, and that’s different from being in there with an opponent who’ll give him 10 seconds to go for a walk. I’ll make him work for the full 12 rounds, every fuckin’ second we’re in there.”
Warrington’s rapid ascent to the top level has been remarkable. Selby was a talented long-reigning world titleholder. Frampton was a former unified titleholder at 122, a WBA titleholder at 126 and a terrific operator. If Warrington is to beat Galahad, who is currently rated No. 9 by The Ring, then history may beckon.
“I’ve got to get through this one, then I don’t want to hang around,” said Warrington sternly. “I’ve done Selby, Frampton and this next fight is my mandatory. Who else is there for me to fight? It has to be unification fights. That’s the drive, that’s the motivation to win this one. He’s just a young bitch stood in the opposite corner. He talks a lot of shit, but we’ll see if he can back it up on the night. I’m preparing like I’m fighting the very best and I’ve trained really hard for this one. The journey ain’t stopping here.
“If Frampton were to win a world title, then I’d love a unification fight against him. He’s a great man, a great fighter and I buzzed off the fight we had. I just want to win another belt, whether it’s against Carl again, (WBO titleholder Oscar) Valdez, (WBC titleholder Leo) Santa Cruz or (WBC titleholder Gary) Russell. If I’m being totally honest, if I had my pick, then it would be Santa Cruz. He’s ranked No. 1 in The Ring Magazine rankings and I’m No. 2. That’s where you want to be, at the top of the tree, then there’s no dispute about who the No. 1 is. I’m within touching distance of making history. I was walking the dogs the other day and thinking about the fighters who have unified in their divisions: [Aleksandr] Usyk, [Vasiliy] Lomachenko, [Terence] Crawford, and then you’d be fuckin’ puttin’ little Josh Warrington in there [laughs]. I can rise to the occasion and I’ve proved it. When people tell me ‘You can’t’ or ‘You won’t’, I say, ‘Right, I’ll fuckin’ work hard to prove you wrong!’
Warrington-Galahad will be broadcast live on BT Sport in the U.K. and ESPN+ in the U.S.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for The Ring. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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