By Frank Warren
WE RETURN TO the setting of quite possibly the best atmosphere in English boxing on Saturday when we have the pleasure of staging another Josh Warrington world title fight night in Leeds at the FD Arena.
It is no secret – and both myself and Josh have placed on record – that we were seeking a unification clash for our man after he completed his mandatory obligation with the IBF against Kid Galahad in June.
The simple truth is that we approached all the other champions and they did not want the fight. End of story.
There is nothing you can do to force the champion of another governing body into the ring if they don’t fancy the job. In the case of two of the champions – Oscar Valdez and Leo Santa Cruz – they have opted to head north in weight so that could open things up significantly as the new champions might be more receptive to an invitation to unify.
Unfortunately, the titles have to be won first and these things take time. Playing the waiting game in boxing rarely pays any sort of dividends and I fully intend to keep Josh active and motivated.
He isn’t in this for the short haul and his reign as champion will include mandatories, taking on the highest available contenders in the rankings and unifications. In this case we have drafted in the top available contender with the IBF to fight Josh on Saturday and nobody should underestimate the threat presented by Sofiane Takoucht.
The Frenchman possesses a lot of experience and the only blemishes on his record came on the cards, with two of them highly debatable.
We have seen enough over recent history on the danger of writing off the underdog. Many of these underdogs can snap back and carry a bit of a bite. Just to state a few obvious ones that spring to mind. Not many people really gave Andy Ruiz jr a prayer against Anthony Joshua in June, while we were ridiculed in some quarters for matching the unbeaten Otto Wallin with Tyson Fury a few weeks back and that one could have gone very wrong.
I’m also pretty sure Gennadiy Golovkin didn’t anticipate getting booed when the result of his fight against Sergiy Derevyanchenko was announced at the weekend.
So you have got to be careful. Just because a fighter might not have any marquee names on his record doesn’t mean he cannot fight, especially with the prize of a world title at stake.
Takoucht would probably have been made mandatory by the IBF at some point in the future anyway, but he gets his chance now and Josh has got to get the job done. With his people behind him, as usual, in his local arena Josh will want to put on a show and then we can again assess the landscape with regard to potential unifications.
In support of Josh on the card, Zelfa Barrett will be looking to reinforce his claim to be the No.1 super featherweight in Britain when he makes a defence of his Commonwealth title against the dangerous Jordan McCorry.
Zelfa really seems to have the bit between his teeth to prove he is the best of the British bunch that also includes the domestic champion Sam Bowen and the WBO European champion Archie Sharp.
Having been the most active recently, you would probably say that Archie is edging ahead of the pack, having looked so good in his fight against McCorry and the other weekend at the Albert Hall when he poleaxed Declan Geraghty.
Now it is Zelfa’s turn to make up ground and remind everyone what an excellent operator he is. He has got huge confidence in himself and appears to have taken incredible strength from suffering a setback a year or so ago.
What it all means, later this year and into next, is that we have some fantastic fights there to be made. The one who comes out on top after taking care of domestic duties will be in a great position in terms of tough fights and experience to push on for a world title.
Also thinking big is Zelfa’s gym comrade Lyndon Arthur. He has sort of been the quiet man of the light heavyweight division up to now, but that is about to change when he gets his opportunity to step into the spotlight on Saturday.
‘King Arthur’ challenges for the vacant Commonwealth title against the big-punching Emmanuel Anim and victory will put him right in the light heavyweight mix up with the likes of Joshua Buatsi and, should they remain at light heavy, Willy Hutchinson and Kody Davies.
It is a strong division across the board and, with Anthony Yarde also in our ranks, we are well positioned to make a number of big fights that matter.
It is a stacked card in Leeds and I won’t go through every fight, but I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Henry Wharton-trained light middleweight prospect George Davey to the team, along with 5-0 super bantamweight Shabaz Masoud.
As with virtually all the young fighters we have recently signed up, these two are a bit special and I am looking forward to steering through the learning process and on towards title contention.