Josh Warrington will have to wait for his chance to gain revenge against Mauricio Lara after a horror cut, caused to the Mexican by a series of head clashes, saw their rematch declared a technical draw at the end of the second round.
Warrington has got to the stage where he knows how to cope with disappointment. Go back two years and he was a world champion, with talks taking place for a dream unification fight in America. That, of course, never happened. Indeed, the pandemic completely sidelined his career and after he gave up his IBF title rather than have a rematch with Kid Galahad. The brutal loss to Lara in February was just the kick in the guts after several body blows.
Up to 20,000 fans had filled Headingley rugby stadium hoping to see Warrington gain revenge. For three minutes, things went to plan. Then the heads cracked together leaving Warrington and all those in attendance frustrated.
“I felt I could cry when it was waved off because I knew how disappointed the fans would be,” Warrington said.
“I’m absolutely gutted. All these people paid their hard-earned money to see me get redemption. These things happen.
“I thought I opened him up with a punch in the first round, but a clash of styles or whatever, the head has hit him and I’m absolutely gutted.
“The gameplan was a bit more defensively minded, but with this crowd I was tempted to get into a bit of a scrap.
“I need to get the slate clean. When I sat down at the end of the first round, I thought this is mine for the taking. I thought I was in for an early night, but not like this. I can only apologize, we will have our redemption eventually.”
The atmosphere inside Headingley could not have been more different from the empty Wembley Arena where Lara shocked Warrington in a behind-closed-doors fight in February, eventually stopping the former IBF featherweight champion in the ninth round. Even the sight of the Mexican on the overhead screens lead to a chorus of boos from the fans in attendance.
Warrington looked more focused this time as he came out behind a high guard and landed a hard right, before launching an attack that forced Lara back into the ropes and finding a way through the Mexican’s defences with his left hook.
Lara went after Warrington in the second round, but a head clash left Lara wincing and cut, an injury that was made worse by two subsequent head clashes.
He made it back to the corner at the end of the round, but as soon as he sat down, the faces in the Lara corner betrayed that the task of closing the cut was beyond them. After working on it for the minute break, referee Steve Gray sought the opinion of the ringside doctor, who waved it off.
The injury was so bad that Eddie Hearn, the promoter, suggested Lara would not be fit to box until next year. With Warrington virtually unmarked, Hearn suggested he should have another fight first and having two world featherweight champions in his camp, Warrington could have his pick before facing Lara next year, should he win.
Firstly there is Warrington’s old rival Kid Galahad, who picked up the IBF title that Warrington gave up, while Leigh Wood, is also now a world champion, having taken the WBA title from Can Xu, the Chinese boxer who Warrington had been due to face at Headingley last summer before the pandemic put the world on hold.
Galahad is keen. Warrington might not be. Right now, however, Warrington knows that he cannot allow his career to stay on hold.