By: Oliver McManus
A cacophonous chorus of Leeds fanatics welcomed their home-hero Josh Warrington into the First Direct Arena in stark contrast to the hostility afforded to, mandatory challenger, Kid Galahad. The passion demonstrated by the capacity crowd is matched only by the heart of their protagonist; in a contest where he was no longer the underdog their were question marks as to how he would gee himself for the circumstances but his legionous following soon put paid to that.
Galahad set about making Warrington uneasy from the off by starting off from the southpaw stance and immediately taking to the centre of the ring. Tapping forward with his rangy front right leg, he was able to close the distance well and ensured he in control of where the fight was fought. Dominic Ingle’s charge would change stance frequently throughout the opening round, thereafter too, and succeeded in preventing the explosive bursts of aggression that Warrington has become synonymous for.
The first couple rounds saw neither corner enforce their authority with the jab of Galahad being countered by brash right hands thrown with the full tilt and twist of Warrington’s body. The ominous hushed tones of those in attendance was a testament to the nip and tuck nature of the opening rounds; Sheffield’s mandatory challenger was able to slow the pace of the contest when fighting from the southpaw stance and you began to wonder why he didn’t fight southpaw for more prolonged periods of time.
Momentum meandered as the contest unfolded as both men picked up rounds by ‘doing more’ whilst never doing enough to consistently come out on top. Warrington, having looked imperious against Lee Selby and Josh Warrington, attempted to rough up Galahad and found success but simply wasn’t able to sustain an attack in the fashion that we’ve seen before. Chopping right hands kept his challenger alert but Galahad was wise to clinch and dampen the enthusiasm of Warrington.
The sixth round saw, perhaps, the first glisten of Warrington’s sharp combinations as he shuffled Galahad onto the ropes with swinging shots to the body – a reminder of the champion’s key threat but nothing more. It seemed, mind, as though Warrington was working his way into the evenly-poised contest and looking to open up a gap in the scorecards in the later rounds. In isolation the better work was coming from the challenger, certainly in dictating the tempo of the fight, but Warrington wasn’t being bullied and was more than playing his part in a nip-and-tuck encounter.
A repetitive rhythm unfolded throughout the rounds with Galahad neutralising Warrington with his stance-switching and a well-worked jab but he stopped at that. He didn’t look to push the momentum one step forward and look to force his opponent onto the backfoot – Warrington was always there or thereabouts – and that’s a dangerous ploy against a champion in his backyard. Warrington adapted but not brilliantly and it was noticeable that he didn’t object to the holding of his challenger because, actually, it allowed him to work on the inside.
Sean O’Hagan, Warrington’s father, was in no uncertain terms that his son needed to finish the fight in style and make sure he took the ‘championship rounds’; Warrington responded with fast hands, in moments, when he was able to penetrate the guard of his challenger but Galahad was slick throughout and didn’t seem fazed by the increased aggression coming his way. An odd fight, for sure, and underwhelming, too, because neither fighter was able to cement a foothold. Galahad found most of his success from the southpaw stance so it boggled the brain that he kept on reverting to orthodox whilst Warrington showed fractional moments of aggression but looked one-dimensional in doing so. In a fight where Galahad refused to rally and run with the momentum you’d always favour Warrington getting the decision.
116-112, 113-115, 116-113 to the reigning champion, Josh Warrington, but the plans for unification are probably put on ice – take another fight, champ, and prove you’ve learned from this one.
Earlier in the night JJ Metcalf produced a classy display to claim the vacant Commonwealth super welterweight title; he knocked out, former British champion, Jason Welborn in the eighth round of their contest. Having entered this contest struggling for momentum, spending time on the sidelines due to injury, the nature of the victory was a reminder of the natural ability from the Merseyside man.
Welborn, with his tattooed torso, looked to make the sharper start with a popping left jab that lurched towards its target like a honey badger. Behind the tattoos was a weakness, however, with Welborn noticeably fragile when caught to the body; he was stopped from such a shot by Jarrett Hurd in December of last year. Metcalf clearly had that on his mind and looked to exploit that weakness from the opening phases with firm shots softening the target from round one.
Metcalf held the tempo beautifully and looked very good against his toughest opponent to date, light on his feet and remaining patient whilst controlling the contest. Welborn found success of his own, though, in the sixth and seventh round as he returned fire and began to give Metcalf something to think about. Think he did by producing the good in the eighth round with a sterling knockout, shortly after a low-blow forced Welborn and saw Metcalf have a point docked, a peach of a left hand caught Welborn flush at the liver and there was no coming back from that. A comfortable victory for Metcalf who showcased his knockout power to perfection – time to step it up and continue these sterner tests.
Lyon Woodstock and Zelfa Barrett both brushed aside their egos to get involved in an evenly matched domestic dust-up with the winner to be crowned super-featherweight Commonwealth champion. It was Barrett who did the better work throughout the 12 rounds to claim the title but the contest itself was an intriguing one. Before fight there had been speculation as to the quality of Barrett’s weight cut with him looking gaunt on the scales but his constant fainting drew the initial jabs from Woodstock.
Both men had suffered their first defeat in 2018 – Barrett against Ronnie Clark and Woodstock against Archie Sharp – but were eager to get involved in such a tantalising contest. Barrett, nephew of Pat, boxed from range – as he done to great effect in previous contests – and Woodstock was happy to mirror the style of his counterpart. Fighting from the outside suited Barrett, the English champion, and he was first to the punch on a number of occasions with a blindingly fast right hand.
WIth the contest ebbing towards Barrett it was surprising that Woodstock persevered in boxing at range and didn’t try his luck on the inside; the ease with which Barrett was able to control the contest was surprising but a testament to the talent he beholds. Woodstock kept on plodding forward and looking to exploit any weakness in his opponent and he didn’t do anything wrong, if we’re honest, he was just beaten a better fighter. Exchanges were plentiful and entertaining but the right hand of Barrett was the difference and his timing was exceptional to counter the work coming his way with a peerless overhand right. Superb from Zelfa Barrett and you wonder just what problems he might pose a certain Sam Bowen.
A trio of fights to tickle the taste buds but you come back to the main event and find yourself asking if either man did enough. It’s a conundrum and ultimately Galahad was the better man but didn’t do enough to win comfortably yet Warrington didn’t do enough to lose, either.
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