IT is no slight on Josh Warrington to say this, but sometimes it is refreshing to hear that the three judges sitting around a British ring have given the benefit of the doubt to a foreign opponent rather than the home fighter when scorecards are read by the MC after a hard-fought 12-rounder.
With so many examples of the opposite, when tonight (December 10) in Leeds the hand of Luis Alberto Lopez was raised following 12 rounds in the company of Warrington it came as not only a surprise but, I’ll admit, almost a relief; a pleasant change. It was also, on balance, probably the right result – just.
For while Warrington vs. Lopez was undoubtedly a close fight, featuring numerous shifts of momentum, there remained a sense throughout that Lopez was the one doing the better work, particularly given he had to contend with a cut eye picked up in round two. That, unfortunately, seems to be an occupational hazard when it comes to fighting Warrington these days (with heads often colliding), yet Lopez, to his credit, dealt with the injury well and never let it deter him or throw him off his game plan.
Indeed, it was this game plan that proved problematic for Warrington in the early going. Slower of both hand and foot, he struggled getting to grips with Lopez and keeping him where he wanted him. This, in turn, led to the 29-year-old Mexican establishing a lead on the cards, or so it seemed, and Warrington then having to get more and more desperate as the fight went along.
Aggressive, sometimes to a fault, Warrington never stopped trying and, late on, found some success, most notably in the ninth round, when he appeared to hurt Lopez, and again in the 11th and 12th. He was being roared on, as usual, by his Leeds support and the combination of their noise and his output was almost enough to reduce whatever deficit had been created by Lopez’s earlier good work on the cards. Yet, alas, for Warrington it was not quite enough and the scores (115-113, 115-113 and 114-114), when they arrived, handed him the second loss of his professional career.
“I understand the fight was close in stages,” Warrington, 31-2-1 (8), told BBC Radio 5 Live. “He started off like a train and kept coming forward.
“I kept working inside and could hear him wincing to the body constantly. He made a meal of it when I hit his leg and I was surprised Bob Williams (referee) let him have 20 seconds.
“In hindsight I look back and think I could have done more.”
As for Lopez, a man who was largely unknown beforehand but nevertheless considered a threat to Warrington, he gets the standout win of his career to date; his 10th in a row since losing against Ruben Villa in 2019.
“I’m really happy at the moment,” Lopez, 27-2 (15), said afterwards. “It has been a long period of preparation and this is now my moment. I’m delighted to be (IBF featherweight) world champion.”
And so he should be. He did, after all, have to enter hostile territory to challenge Warrington and he then refused to be denied, ignoring both a cut and the depressing but no less realistic belief that in a close 12-rounder he would, as the boxer in the away corner, likely find himself shafted by what some prefer to call “home cooking”.
That this in the end didn’t happen is a credit to both Lopez and his impressive work, particularly early, and also the three ringside judges (Mike Fitzgerald, Howard Foster and Adam Height) who refused to be swayed by either the reputation of Warrington, the Leeds-based champion, or the noise around them.