Warrington calls out featherweight title rivals

Josh Warrington is urging Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn to match him against a rival world featherweight champion in the United States next year, providing he wins his first defence of the IBF world featherweight title on Saturday.

Warrington (31-1-1, 8 KOs), 32, fights against Luis Alberto Lopez (26-2, 15 KOs), 29, from Mexico, in his second reign as champion after he suffered a broken jaw in a seventh-round stoppage win over Kiko Martinez in March.

Beating Martinez got Warrington’s career back on track after a fall in status last year. The Leeds-based boxer decided to give up the IBF title as he thought it would improve his chances of fighting one of the other world champions without mandatory title defence obligations. But in what was considered a warm-up bout, he was stopped by Mauricio Lara in February 2021, and a rematch ended in a technical draw after the Mexican suffered a cut in the first round.

Those fights derailed Warrington’s career just as he was hoping to secure a fight in the US.

After beating Lee Selby for the IBF title in 2018, Warrington made an impressive first defence (unanimous decision) against former division No. 1 Carl Frampton as one of three defences in his first spell as champion.

But a fight in the US against one of the other top names in the division, such as WBC titleholder Gary Russell Jr. or WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz, never materialised.

Warrington has not given up hope and is now targeting WBC champion Rey Vargas, WBO titleholder Emanuel Navarrete and Lara.

“A few years ago I had ambitions of unifying and then moving up a division,” Warrington told ESPN.

“Between 2018-19, I was beating everyone in the UK that needed to be beat but I feel I have unfinished business at featherweight. I want to fight another champ at this division.

“I felt I did everything I needed to do to go over there and fight the likes of Gary Russell and Leo Santa Cruz back then. After the Lara fights, I’ve got the belt back and I don’t know why I can’t have a go at one of the other champions. Other champions seem to find it easy to get these fights but it’s been a long time coming for me.”

Warrington enjoys good support in his home city, where he faces Lopez this weekend at the First Direct Arena, and he says they would be willing to travel to a US venue.

“So many people have got their passports waiting and would like to see me fight in America,” Warrington said.

“Hopefully Eddie can deliver it sometime next year.

“I saw Frampton fight Santa Cruz over there and I’ve visualised me doing the same ever since. I would be devastated if I didn’t get that opportunity. That’s what’s motivating me to get through fights like this.

“I don’t see why you I couldn’t fight Lara or Rey Vargas on a Canelo undercard next year.

“You set yourselves goal and my goal is to unify the division. I was close before, now I’m world champion again, I don’t see why it can’t be done and fighting in the US. I’ve got the fanbase who are willing to go. Let’s make it happen.”

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