Josh Warrington is now a two-time featherweight titleholder, regaining the IBF belt today with a seventh round TKO win over Kiko Martinez in front of a rowdy crowd in Leeds, England.
Warrington (31-1-1, 8 KO) dropped Martinez (43-11-2, 3O KO) in the first round, catching him loading up on a right hand and putting him on the canvas, which came after the heads had clashed hard and left Martinez complaining to referee Marcus McDonnell, who pretty much ignored it.
The fight was rough in that regard, with heads coming together frequently, Warrington often leading with “shoulder-butts,” and Martinez developing cuts on both eyes and one on the forehead. The Spanish veteran never gave up on it, though he appeared out-gunned early, and had clawed his way back into making it competitive, at least, before he was hurt again in round seven, after he’d rocked Warrington a bit with a good right hand of his own. Once Warrington steadied from eating that shot, he poured on the pressure until McDonnell stepped in.
Warrington, who had vacated the IBF title in early 2021 instead of fighting a rematch with Kid Galahad — the man Martinez would upset late last year — had gotten back the belt he’d never actually lost in the ring.
“I’ve got me belt back. It wasn’t just for me or my family, my wife and my kids, it was for all of these who have supported me, honestly,” Warrington said. “We might not do the same numbers as the big boys, your AJs and your Furys, but I’d rather have an arena full of these lot than fucking 100,000 tourists any day of the week. I know I’m not Eddie (Hearn)’s favorite cup of tea, but when I’m on it, and these lot fucking turn out, he knows there’s nothing fucking like it in the world, let alone the country. We’re not the biggest ticket seller, but we do alright, we’re not bad. Love you, Leeds!”
“This is the defining night, to become a two-time world champion. One of the reasons he lost to Mauricio Lara is he didn’t have this lot,” Hearn said. “He was a different fighter (fighting without a crowd). Without them, he wouldn’t have this opportunity. Eight years they’ve been supporting him. Tonight, there’s not a spare seat in the house. I know I get a few boos, but you lot have been incredible supporting this man.”
“I wouldn’t mind a bit of bread pudding, a cheeseburger, a pint with all these lot. I wouldn’t mind going home, having sex with me missus, because it’s been about four weeks,” Warrington said when asked what was next. He also said he’d like to have an “away day” in the States, before he was congratulated by WBA champ (kinda, not his fault) Leigh Wood, who was then asked about a unification, too. Wood deferred, saying it was Warrington’s night and they could talk about it later.
If Warrington looks for unification in the States, Leo Santa Cruz has the WBA “super world” title (the higher version of the belt Wood holds, though Wood deserves recognition) and Mark Magsayo the WBC belt, though Magsayo is set to face mandatory challenger Rey Vargas in July. There’s no certainty that they care about unification, though; Warrington could simply go make a defense in Las Vegas, New York, California, or Texas, wherever Matchroom run this summer or fall.
Warrington came in the -350 favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook, and paid off for those who saw him as the favorite to repeat against Martinez, who had been at +275.
Martinez vs Warrington 2 highlights
Ebanie Bridges UD-10 Maria Cecilia Roman
Scores here were 97-93, 97-93, and 100-91, the latter card from Don Trella. It’s a bad card but not one I’ll pop a moment of outrage about. I had it 96-94 for Bridges, but that’s with nicking a good couple swing rounds to Roman, and I think that’s as close as anyone could have had it. Bridges won this fight, deserves the W, and gains the IBF bantamweight title as a result.
Bridges (8-1, 3 KO) has, if we’re being honest, been very obviously steered toward a world title, particularly since her first shot at a belt a few fights ago, her loss to Shannon Courtenay in 2021. Matchroom rightly saw a very marketable fighter in Bridges, not just in that she “flaunts” her looks, but she fights her ass off. Her persona got her in the door, and her heart and determination have kept her there and made her quite welcome. She continues to make improvements, too.
She did more work and the better work here, as Roman (16-6-1, 0 KO) had her moments of success, particularly in the last few rounds, but it just wasn’t quite enough to overcome the fast start from the younger, physically stronger Aussie.
Matchroom have a unification possibility at 118 with Jamie Mitchell, who beat Shannon Courtenay. There’s also the chance of a Bridges-Courtenay rematch, though Bridges didn’t seem that interested in that unless Courtenay gets a title again. But money may talk in time, too, it’s not like she had some concrete offers for her at ringside as she cursed at the crowd in hilarious and justified fashion.
Maxi Hughes UD-12 Ryan Walsh
Judges had this one 118-110, 119-109, 120-108, Bad Left Hook had it 118-110 on our unofficial card. I think you could have nicked up to four rounds for Walsh, but you also could have nicked as few as, you know, zero rounds for Walsh, this was another clear, largely one-sided win for Hughes.
Hughes (25-5-2, 5 KO) is just a lot of fun to watch right now if you’re someone who’s watched him over the years, including his losses. He’s gotten that vital bit better to where he’s now dominating fights with “similar-level” opponents instead of quite possibly losing to those types. I don’t think he’s a top 10 lightweight right now, as much as I’d love to slot him in there, because lightweight is a good division with a lot of talent. But there are divisions where a couple or three guys in a top 10 aren’t in the sort of form Hughes is at the moment. In a division more like those, this run of wins over Jono Carroll, Viktor Kotochigov, Paul Hyland Jr, Jovanni Staffon, and now Walsh would have you in a top 10, even if it’s more that the division lacks depth.
But Hughes has really just maxed his level and his ability, which even really great fighters sometimes never do, even if they’ve had terrific success. He is getting every single ounce of quality that he can out of himself, fighting with an outstanding confidence. He’s using his jab well, mixing up his punches well, defensively sound, moves his head with a high guard, makes opponents miss; it’s a joy to watch a guy you’d call a “workmanlike” fighter have the run he’s having. He’s got great momentum.
Undercard highlights and results
- Dalton Smith TKO-10 Ray Moylette: Give credit to Moylette (12-2, 5 KO), as he didn’t roll over for one of the UK’s better prospects here, giving Smith (10-0, 8 KO) some good work on the nigh. He also had to eat a couple of clear low blows, one that really did some damage in the seventh round and got Smith docked two points and flirting with a DQ. They didn’t seem intentional, but they were brutal shots, especially the second one. But Smith also adjusted well when body shots were basically a no-go, and he dropped Moylette twice in the 10th and final round to secure the stoppage when Moylette’s corner rightly stepped in. Obviously Moylette wanted to keep fighting, but the corner made the right call, the fight was well beyond him at that point and he was being beaten up. Smith remains a real prospect at 140, 25 years old and impressing every time out, and not just showing the exact same performance each time, either.
- Skye Nicolson PTS-6 Bec Connolly: Connolly (3-12, 0 KO) has tested a lot of prospects, but at this point she’s not offering much of an actual test, if we’re being honest. Nicolson (2-0, 0 KO) is a fantastic prospect, a well-schooled boxer from a fighting family and an Olympian for Australia in Tokyo, so losing a 60-54 sweep to Nicolson is no shame or anything, but Connolly had pretty much given up on this by the second or third round, so it wasn’t exactly fun to watch. Bec also has another fight set on April 15 in London against Nina Hughes. As for Nicolson, she could fast-track pretty easily in the shallow world of women’s boxing, and has also continued to say she wants to compete at Paris 2024, so we’ll see where her focus goes next year especially. She’ll have more fights like this one for a bit, probably.