INSIDE an electric Elland Road Stadium, Josh Warrington made a mockery of the odds against him and claimed the IBF featherweight title with a thrilling 12-round points victory over Lee Selby. The judges were split, with one favouring Selby 115-113, yet justice was done via scores of 116-112 and 115-113 in the challenger’s favour.
“I can’t put into words how I feel. I got into the ring tonight with the expectation of the city on my shoulders,” said Warrington after his sensational victory. “I outboxed the boxer tonight.”
In the opening exchanges, Selby tried to assert himself but the Leeds hero was keen to gain control against the clearly taller man in-close. The challenger’s left hooks caught the eye yet Selby remained composed from the outside.
The champion was quick to take control of ring centre in the second, but southpaw Selby was just as quickly in trouble. As the pair emerged from an already typically furious exchange, the Welshman sported a cut above his left eye, the result of an accidental clash of heads.
Warrington, the pre-fight underdog, forced the action again in the third yet the champion established his rhythm, popping the jab, and moving well to take the session. But the blood streamed down Selby’s face in the fourth, Warrington – buoyed by the home support – upped his output late on.
Into the fifth and any predictions of complete Selby dominance already looked a little silly. A rasping right by Warrington caught the favourite’s attention, yet the classier work came from the champion. Even so, it was close and oh so exciting.
Again, Warrington poured on the pressure in the sixth. Right hands scored, another cut opened on Selby, this time over his right eye. The action stopped and for a moment, as the referee urged the doctor to take a look, it looked like Warrington was on the brink of a stoppage victory. Selby’s cornerman Chris Sanigar, though, was having none of it and demanded his man be allowed to continue. At the end of the round, the second cut was adjudged to have been caused by another accidental head clash.
After a frantic seventh, another Warrington round, Selby again struggled to stay out of harm’s way in the eighth. A left hook from the champion was perhaps the best blow of the round but Warrington, hurt or not, again roared back to the delight of the crowd.
It was hard to deny Warrington, fighting out of his skin, took the ninth. Educated pressure from the challenger was immense as he refused to take a backward step, unleashing blasts to head and body. The upset, as the bell sounded, looked like the only outcome. That feeling intensified in the 10th as Warrington zeroed in on Selby’s wounds and confirmed his dominance.
The 11th started calmly, but concluded with Warrington hurling and connecting.
By the final round the upset was sealed. Blasted by a right hand, the soon to be ex-champion grumbled about punches behind the back of the head, but the referee – stained by Selby’s blood – ignored the complaint.
And rightly so.