On a defining night for the featherweight division undefeated Josh Warrington (27-0, 6KOs) ripped the IBF title from Lee Selby (26-2, 9KOs) and Gary Russell Jr (29-1, 17KOs) retained his WBC strap against Joseph Diaz Jr (26-1, 14KOs).
The featherweight division is staked with an abundance of talent and after Saturday nights fights we are a step closer to finding out who is the best of the bunch.
Starting at Elland Road, Leeds United fanatic Josh Warrington produced the performance of his life to become the new IBF world champion. In a bloody encounter Warrington stormed out of the blocks from the first bell and took the first two rounds convincingly.
The Welshman was then able to establish a bit of a rhythm in the fourth and fifth but Warrington came back again in the sixth and seventh. Moving into the championship rounds and Warrington did not step off the gas making sure he won his rounds clearly.
Selby left himself open to the left hook on far too many occasions which the Yorkshire man took advantage of time and time again. The 27-year-old finished the fight exactly how he started with two dominant rounds to end the bout.
I think everyone in attendance including team Selby were puzzled with the split decision. Two judges had it correctly in favour of Warrington 116-114 and 115-113 but the third judge must have been blindfolded to score the fight to Selby 115-113.
Warington was not only full of energy and desire but he showed a lot of skill and boxing knowledge to outwit the former champion. The Warrior from Leeds has improved with every fight so he will need to continue in that fashion if his wish to become a unified champion can be achieved.
On the other side of the pond Gary Russell Jr survived an early onslaught to retain his WBC title against ‘Jojo’ Diaz at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill Maryland. The Washington-born champion showed his blistering hand speed was still evident after a year out of the ring taking the first couple of rounds.
Diaz Jr was able to pepper the body to good effect in the first half of the fight which kept it a close contest. Unfortunately for the young challenger he was unable to get close enough during the second half of the bout as Russell Jr took complete control.
The champion was able to adjust keeping his opponent at range using his jab and excellent footwork. With the victory in the bag the 29-year-old neglected his outside style for the final round making the twelfth close to the joy of the fans.
All three judges gave the fight to Russell Jr with two scoring it 117-111 and the third 115-113.
Best featherweights starting to emerge
Before the Oscar Valdez and Scott Quigg fight we had 10 featherweights all vying for the No.1 spot. Two months on and the best featherweights are starting to emerge.
Mexican Valdez, Irishman Frampton, Englishman Warrington and American Russell Jr are in pole position to challenge world number one Leo Santa Cruz who takes on Abnar Mares in June 9.
With WBO champion Valdez still in recovery from a broken jaw we are still unclear as to whether the young Mexican will remain in the 126 pound division. His decision will be significant for WBO interim champion Carl Frampton who will be the 27-year-old’s next opponent if he stays. If he decides to vacate then the Irishman will be elevated to full champion and will seek alternative opponents for his dream fight at Windsor Park, Northern Ireland in August.
The newly crowned IBF champion Warrington will also be keen to hear what Valdez does next as he would be a shoe in for a unification fight with Frampton. After he’s victory on Saturday night he was quick to accept the challenge of fighting Frampton in Ireland. Both fighters are signed with promoter Frank Warren so there should not be any problems getting the fight signed.
American Russell Jr has proved that he is the No.1 featherweight in the states and has indicated that only unification fights will keep him in the division.
Before any deals are negotiated I’m sure everyone will wait on the outcome of Santa Cruz-Mares in two weeks. The winner brings the WBA title to the table. Santa Cruz is the firm favourite and rightfully so but anything can happen in boxing.
In an ideal world
With so many possibilities for all the current world champions it’s hard to work out what will happen next. In an ideal world Valdez will decide to defend his title against Frampton at Windsor Park in August. Josh Warrington could perhaps give Kid Galahad a shot at his title who is highly ranked with the IBF. Which would pave the way for Russell Jr verses Santa Cruz in September/ October.
The World Boxing Super Series has been a revaluation with some of the best names from the bantamweight division signing up for series 2. Well, the featherweights seem to be already producing a series of their own. Let’s hope they continue in the same fashion for the rest of the year so we can have an undisputed champion come 2019!