Josh Warrington: After sacrifice of Sofiane Takoucht, a world title unification and mire of boxing politics awaits

The topless summer made a later appearance in Leeds on Saturday night when the faithful removed their shirts, danced in lunatic formation to welcome Josh Warrington to their chosen ring in their beloved city.

Warrington has been building Britain’s most devoted fight-flock for nearly a decade, each fan seems to have a Warrington tale, he is their friend from the terraces, the boozer, the away-day special, a passionate Leeds United fan and the unbeaten IBF featherweight champion. I’m not sure if anybody has ever seen how he crosses the River Aire in the Yorkshire city, but I’m guessing he never uses a bridge.

A Frenchman called Sofiane Takoucht was the selected sacrifice for Saturday night, a seasoned, hard-faced campaigner with three tight defeats in 39 fights and a justifiable reputation for toughness. Takoucht had never been stopped, but Warrington slapped him all about the ring, too fast, too powerful, possessed and dropped him heavily twice with short fights, altering his battered face to end the massacre after just 2:54 of round two. It was the statement he needed and promised.

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It was a new Warrington on Saturday night, sending a clear memo of intent to the champions, challengers and former champions, all part of a convenient flotilla of men with a clear reluctance to fight Warrington, but a bad habit of being critical of him. Men have vacated two of the other three titles after rejecting offers, which included both fights in Leeds – a return to Elland Road – and potential partial unification fights in America.

“What can I do to get any of them in the ring?” Warrington said when he had finally calmed down at close to midnight. “I’m willing to travel for a title fight, everybody knows that. They give me stick, but they will not fight me. I’m prepared to go up if I have to, why not?”


October top 10 pound-for-pound boxers in the world





1/11 Who is the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world?

2/11 10. Juan Francisco Estrada (39-3-0)

3/11 9. Mikey Garcia (39-1-0)

4/11 8. Gennady Golovkin (39-1-1)

5/11 7. Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2)

6/11 6. Errol Spence (26-0-0)

7/11 5. Oleksandr Usyk (17-0-0)

8/11 4. Naoya Inoue (18-0-0)

9/11 3. Terence Crawford (35-0-0)

10/11 2. Canelo Alvarez (52-1-2)

11/11 1. Vasyl Lomachenko (14-1-0)

1/11 Who is the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world?

2/11 10. Juan Francisco Estrada (39-3-0)

3/11 9. Mikey Garcia (39-1-0)

4/11 8. Gennady Golovkin (39-1-1)

5/11 7. Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2)

6/11 6. Errol Spence (26-0-0)

7/11 5. Oleksandr Usyk (17-0-0)

8/11 4. Naoya Inoue (18-0-0)

9/11 3. Terence Crawford (35-0-0)

10/11 2. Canelo Alvarez (52-1-2)

11/11 1. Vasyl Lomachenko (14-1-0)

The “go up” option means gaining four critical pounds and chasing former featherweight champions Oscar Valdez and Leo Santa Cruz to super-featherweight. It is a genuine option, but not the only one and there is a loose plan for a fight against the Chinese boxer Can Xu, the WBA regular champion, at Elland Road in May or June next year. Xu first has a defence in November and there is a chance that he will be upgraded by the WBA to “super” champion, one of the preposterous pieces of stupidity in a business of increasing bureaucratic madness. The men in power at the sanctioning bodies simply invent the belts they bestow, handing them over in ceremonies of fake pomp like ancient tyrants showing benevolence.

The Warrington problem is a classic modern boxing failing, with three other champions at one point all happy to circle each other, vacate to avoid each other and promoters, management groups and television executives all too happy to assist the chaos. “I’m making offers, talking to people, trying to make these fights happen – Josh will fight anybody: He is different to a lot of other fighters,” said Frank Warren, the promoter.

Warrington is now 28, unbeaten in 30 fights, he started in tiny leisure centres, fighting for peanuts, now he sells-out indoor arenas, he put over 30,000 in Elland Road with the Kaiser Chiefs serenading his entrance, he won fight of the year for beating Carl Frampton last December, he visits children in cancer wards in hospital, he is trained by his father Sean and all he wants to do is fight the other champions, men that have dismissed him and would struggle to fill a taxi with their fans. He is the British everyman, a boxer with mass appeal for what he does in his chosen trade and not for his image on social media.

On Saturday night everybody knew he would ruin Takoucht, shake the facts from the Frenchman’s record of resistance, and triumph easily. It was, in many ways, the easy celebration his last three difficult fights demanded and Warrington took the offer, grabbed the gift and looked savage as he went about his business. It will be different next time, compelling, brutal, a unification and the faithful will be out again, a Saturday night special of pot-bellied karaoke men, glamorous women and good-time folk, all with a devotion to their fighting man.

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