Yesterday, Josh Warrington made the shock decision to vacate his IBF featherweight title rather than face mandatory challenger Kid Galahad.
The pair previously fought in June 2019, with Warrington retaining his belt via contentious split decision. Galahad (27-1, 16 KOs) petitioned for an immediate rematch, but had to settle for a final eliminator against Claudio Marrero in February of last year. The Sheffield switch-hitter produced a career-best performance, forcing his opponent to retire on his stool at the end of the eighth round and, in the process, earned the right to correct what he perceived to be the wrong from their first bout.
However, Galahad’s hopes of a rematch evaporated as the Leeds fighter vacated his strap on the day that purse bids for the contest were due to be called. The motivation for the unexpected decision is ostensibly that Warrington has his heart set on challenging for The Ring Magazine belt. Warrington is currently ranked No.1 in The Ring ratings and must face either of the next ranked fighters: Gary Russell Jr or Xu Can to be eligible to win the strap. In the meantime, Warrington meets the unheralded Mauricio Lara on 13 February.
Yet Galahad believes that his Yorkshire rival is simply doing everything in his power to avoid a second fight with the awkward switch-hitter.
“Like I said in the beginning, he’s a conman,” Galahad told Boxing Social. “He just talks shit. He talks about being a champion, well, part of being a champion is fighting your mandatories. AJ fought his mandatory, Canelo is fighting his mandatory. It’s just part of the game, it’s what you’ve got to do. It’s like getting to the final of the Champions League and saying: ‘I’m not playing them because I beat them last season in a close match and I don’t want to play them this year’.
“What’s he in the game for? He’s gone from fighting Lee Selby, to Carl Frampton, to me; to fighting some French kid [Sofiane Takoucht] no one knows and a Mexican road sweeper. Why’s he fighting these guys? You’d think he was the one coming off a loss!
“I went in with a world class, dangerous operator who can bang and he’s fighting a road sweeper like he needs building back up. Like I said all along, he might have got the decision, but I know he knows he lost that fight. No matter what he says, I know he can’t sleep at night, that’s why he’s picking and choosing these rubbish fighters.”
For a large part of last year, Warrington’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, was in negotiations with Golden Boy Promotions in an attempt to secure a fight between Warrington and Xu Can. A major stumbling block was that Xu holds the WBA ‘Regular’ crown and the IBF refuse to recognise any other sanctioning body’s secondary title as a unification fight. The WBA ‘Super’ featherweight title is currently in the possession of Leo Santa Cruz, but the Mexican’s last two contests have taken place at super-featherweight. Golden Boy and Matchroom were hopeful that Can would be elevated to Super champion, however Santa Cruz has expressed that he will return to the 126lbs division, scuppering such plans.
Regardless of the politics at play, Galahad simply cannot fathom why his rival would vacate his world title in favour of pursuing a fighter in possession of a secondary version of the title.
“He wants to fight for the Regular title, oh my God,” he said in disbelief. “That’s like winning the British title and saying: ‘I’m vacating the British title because I don’t want to fight this kid, I’m going to go fight for the British Masters title’.
“Warrington thinks he deserves to get these big fights, when I heard that I just thought: ‘Shut the fuck up’. In boxing, nothing is ever deserved, it’s earned. He doesn’t want to take a risk; he doesn’t want to leave Leeds. Of course, they could have made the Xu Can fight in America, but he didn’t want to leave Leeds. How did Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton get the big fights, they left their cities and had to go to America. Warrington just wants it in Leeds. If you are such a big draw, go fight over there and see how many people you take over. That’s the thing with boxing these days, everyone says they want to fight this guy or that guy, but really, they don’t. It’s all talk. He’s called out Gary Russell Jr, he knows that fight isn’t going to happen. Do more and talk less.”
The prospect of a fight between Warrington and Xu has appealed to many observers as both boxers have an incredibly high work rate and do not like to take a backwards step. Many anticipate that the contest simply could not be anything other than a war. However, Galahad disagrees, preferring quality over quantity.
“What’s sad is the media and the fans are trying to push that it’s a big fight,” he said. “Xu Can throws 150 punches a round, who cares? That’s like watching a game of football where a team has 100 shots off target and calling it an exciting game, it’s not. At the end of the day, it’s about scoring. You don’t want to see someone who has 1,000 shots and miss 1,000 shots! It’s trying to sugar-coat shit.”
Now Galahad finds himself playing the waiting game once more. The next highest ranked contender is James ‘Jazza’ Dickens. The Scouser is currently in the form of his life having won the MTK Golden Contract tournament, beating Leigh Wood and Ryan Walsh in the process.
Galahad and Dickens engaged in an enthralling battle for the British super-bantamweight title in 2013. After nine, nip-and-tuck frames, Galahad brought the fight to a dramatic close in the 10th round. The build-up to the bout was punctuated by mutual animosity; however, in the intervening years, the pair have become fond of one another. Galahad acted as Dickens sparring partner ahead of ‘Jazza’s’ world title challenge against Guillermo Rigondeaux. Dickens returned the favour by helping Galahad prepare for Marrero. Despite having been victorious before, Galahad is under no illusions that he’s in for an easy night if he faces the Liverpudlian again.
“Jazza is a hard fight for anyone, no matter who you are,” he said. “It was a hard fight and it’ll be an even harder fight the second time around. He’s just come off two fantastic wins. He’s done what I’ve done, he’s done it the hard way. It’s going to make for an exciting fight. When we boxed the first time, it’s like we were both possessed because we knew what was on the line.
“It’s [taken] us a long time to get here. We’ve ground it out and now we are here. We fought for the British title and now we are fighting for a world title. That was like a world title. After the fight, I thought, ‘If that’s British level, then I’ve got to be even more on it because at world level it’s going to be even harder’, but Jazza is world level.
“Me and him have probably shared, 50, 60 rounds we know each other inside out and I know it will be one hell of a fight because he’s disciplined, he’s dedicated and lives the life, I just think I’m a little bit better than him in every department.”
While Galahad was bitterly disappointed that he was denied the opportunity to get revenge on Warrington, he is determined to move on and fulfil what he sees as his destiny: becoming a world champion.
“I was devastated, to be fair,” he said. “I wanted to beat a champion; I didn’t want to fight for a vacant title. Now, it’s about winning the world title. Jazza Dickens is next in line, hopefully he takes it. If he doesn’t, there’s a Filipino kid [Mark Magsayo], if he doesn’t there’s a Spanish kid [Andoni Gago], so I don’t really know? I want to be a dominant world champion. If the big fights come, they come. I want to be an active world champion. I don’t want just one big fight a year, I want to fight three times a year. “