‘The Jackal’ delivers his expert take on this month’s feisty Featherweight fisticuffs between Barry’s defending IBF boss Lee Selby and unbeaten Yorkshire homeboy Josh Warrington at Elland Road football ground in Leeds.
“Stadium fights are always a big deal and I’m particularly looking forward to this one.
The atmosphere is sure to be stoking. Those Leeds fans have a bit of a rep for their passion. I’ll be present at ringside doing some work for BT and BoxNation, and I’m expecting a wee bit of grief. Me and Josh have never really had a go at each other publicly so hopefully Lee Selby is going to cop for the brunt of it!
I think it’s now a far closer fighter than it was a year ago. Back then, I’d have had Selby ‘nailed on’. But Josh is an improving fighter and home turf is a huge advantage. I know that whenever I fight in Belfast, I’m a better fighter. The home crowd definitely add to your game plus Selby could be affected by the intensity and hostility.
I know Lee says he boxed away from home before but he’s never really been the ‘away fighter’ against a fanatically supported fan favourite like he shall be here. He’s very experienced but he’ll need to show great mental strength. It won’t be nice.
Lee’s a very good fighter; very fast and skilful. He’s also huge for the weight, tall and rangy. He knows how to capitalise on those advantages but he must battle with the weight. Is this one fight too many at Featherweight? I’ve been expecting him to move up for a while but the division’s really buzzing at the minute and he’s hung around at 126 hoping for the big money matches. Again, that narrows the odds from last year.
Warrington is getting better with every fight. He’s a very fit, very gritty, very determined operator. He’s quite well-rounded technically and, lately, he’s starting to hurt people a bit. Having his mad crowd behind him, really helps even things up. However, Josh is not a natural counter puncher and my concern for him is whether he can hurt opponents at the very highest level.
Lee’s definitely the more skilled of the two and, given his physical advantages, his best plan would be to keep things long whilst staying in the centre of the ring and protecting his legs. But he needs to be spiteful, hit Warrington hard, from length. He needs to stop Josh coming forward; tie him up whenever they get close.
If I was running Camp Warrington, I’d be advising Josh to crank the pressure on, get on Selby’s chest and sustain a very high pace from the outset. Josh maybe 5-0 down after five rounds but the fight could start to sway his way the longer it goes on - he’s probably the fitter - so he needn’t get disheartened unduly. Early on, he needs to resort to whatever he can get away with - put the head on, land the odd low blow, generally rough Selby up. Whatever he can get away with, to annoy and upset Selby. At the end of the day, it’s a fight.
Josh’s best option is to draw Selby into a war and I see that happening more, the longer the fight goes. Selby will have to stand and fight at some stage but that doesn’t mean he’ll be found wanting. He’s a better fighter on the inside than he’s generally given credit for. It’s just Warrington’s best chance. He’ll not outbox Lee.
I expect an intriguing fight for the fans. A year ago, I think Selby would’ve stood Warrington on his head. Not now. But I still see Selby edging it on a close points decision. He brings the better skills and pedigree. He’s done it before; been World Champion for a long time now.
And now that it seems that Oscar Valdez will be out for a good while, I hope that the winner comes through relatively unscathed and will defend against me in another mega match-up at Windsor Park, Belfast this August!”