JOSH WARRINGTON clung onto his IBF featherweight title via contentious split decision over the unlucky Kid Galahad. One score of 115-113 in the challenger’s favour was overruled by tallies of 116-112 and 116-113 for Warrington after a messy and hard to score 12-rounder.
“I knew it were close but you can’t come to a champion’s backyard and win the title by fighting like that,” said Warrington, 29-0 (6). “He was clever with the way he was fighting. I put myself under a lot of pressure, I was tense and I got carried away with it all.”
Warrington was busier throughout but how many of his punches truly scored should be up for debate. Unquestionably, it was his work-rate that was the deciding factor on the judges’ scorecards in Leeds’ First Direct Arena.
Galahad exhibited what a difficult night it was going to be for Leeds’ Warrington in a hectic yet messy opening round. The challenger, as expected, switched stances, befuddling the favourite and preventing Warrington from scoring with anything other than single shots.
The pattern continued into the second round and Galahad seemed to feed off Warrington’s frustration, countering sharply as the champion waded in, charged up by his vociferous fans. Warrington had some success with his straight right in third but Galahad appeared to take the fourth, standing in range and clouting his rival when he got close.
The crowd roared in the fifth as the champion got on the front foot and momentarily rocked Galahad with a sweeping right hand. Yet the feeling was that the Sheffield man was still in control, at least of the pace, as he expertly took the steam out of Warrington’s work.
Galahad was warned late in the sixth by referee Phil Edwards for holding. It was another messy round with Warrington trying and largely failing to press the action but the fact he was the busier fighter could not be disputed. Neither, it seemed, could canny Galahad’s superiority in the punch accuracy stakes.
Warrington had some joy in the eighth as Galahad seemed to lose his shape slightly. A right hand scored but by the end of the session it was the challenger, again, catching the eye as he countered the onrushing champion.
The referee warned Galahad again in the ninth for tying up Warrington but a point deduction would have been harsh. At the end of the round, the champion’s father and trainer, Sean O’Hagan, warned his charge that the fight was slipping away.
In the ninth, Galahad popped Warrington’s head back with a lead left uppercut on the inside as the action intensified. The champion roared forward, briefly forcing his opponent back before the pace was slowed, again, by his slippery rival.
Feeling the pressure, Warrington let his hands go to begin the 11th. The blows were largely wayward, though and Galahad – so clever tactically – again countered the fire.
Going into the last round, the challenger was told by his trainer Dominic Ingle that the title was his if could get through the final three minutes. Warrington tried to rally yet his punches were untidy and off target. Galahad, as cool in the closing seconds as he was in the opening moments, fired in counters to Warrington’s face.
In the end, though, it went against him. His record now reads 26-1 (15).
On the undercard, Zelfa Barrett turned in a classy and disciplined showing to widely outscore Leon Woodstock Jr over 12 rounds for the vacant Commonwealth super-featherweight title.
Barrett zipped inside and out, landing twos and threes, but could not stop the always lively Woodstock from scoring with shots of his own. Woodstock was durable as he stood up to several slashing blows, dangerous throughout, but Barrett deserved the unanimous victory.
Liverpool’s James Metcalf was impressive as he halted recent IBF super-welterweight title challenger Jason Welborn with a savage left hook to the body in the eighth round. Metcalf was in control from the start, bossing with his left jab for large periods but lost a point for a low blow just before delivering the finishing blow.
The victory means that Metcalf – son of Merseyside legend Shea Neary – is now the Commonwealth super-welterweight champion. Welborn, who was a courageous four-round loser to Jarret Hurd in December, has now lost eight of 32 bouts while Metcalf improved to 20-0 (11).