Warrington reclaims title in career-reviving win


Josh Warrington turned around his career with a spiteful seventh round win over Kiko Martinez to reclaim the IBF world featherweight title Saturday.

Warrington (31-1-1, 7 KOs), 31, floored Martinez amid a furious start in the first round before forcing a stoppage and ending the brave resistance of Martinez in the seventh round to become a two-time world champion.

Warrington’s sharp punches cut Martinez’s face to ribbons during a dominant display in front of 12,000 of his home city fans at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, England.

“It wasn’t just for me or family, but for all my fans who have supported me,” Warrington said. “I know I’m not [Matchroom promoter] Eddie Hearn’s favourite cup of tea — Yorkshire tea — but when I’m on it there’s nothing like it in front of these fans.

“For a long time I’ve wanted to go to the States, and I would love an away day next.”

Martinez (43-11-2, 30 KOs), 36, finished the fight with his face covered in blood from cuts around both eyes and lost the IBF featherweight belt in a first defense, after he had won it by pulling off a shock win by stunning knockout against Warrington’s local rival Kid Galahad last year.

Warrington badly needed a win like this. Defeat would have been disastrous for Warrington, who voluntarily gave up the IBF belt in January last year and was then stopped in nine rounds by Mauricio Lara in what was supposed to be a warm-up fight. Warrington’s hopes of making amends after the big upset loss were dashed when the rematch ended prematurely in a two-round technical draw after the Mexican suffered a cut.

This win revives Warrington’s career and opens up the possibility of a fight against WBA “regular” champion Leigh Wood, also from England, if he does not rematch with Michael Conlan next. Warrington also wants to fight in the United States, but that depends on the type of opponent Hearn can secure. Wood might be the biggest fight on offer for Warrington later this year.

For Martinez, a bloody 11th career defeat may send him into retirement after a fine career which has seen him share the ring with three reigning world champions in Leo Santa Cruz (WBA “super”), Gary Russell Jr (WBC) and twice with Warrington, who also beat Martinez by a majority points decision at the same venue in 2017.

Martinez, who made two defenses as IBF junior featherweight champion (2013-14), was in trouble early on in the opening round as the challenger put him under immediate siege. Warrington, who made three defenses of the IBF belt from 2018 to 2019, launched a furious and sustained attack that culminated in Martinez sprawling backwards after being caught by an overhand right later in the first round. Martinez recovered well form the knockdown and count, but Warrington quickly resumed the onslaught with unrelenting hooks in the second round.

Martinez, five years older than the challenger, showed incredible resilience to come firing back later in the second round after absorbing a barrage of punches. Martinez was cut from a clash of heads in the first round and the Spaniard had to contend with blood streaming from the wound by his left eye.

Martinez was largely the aggressor in the third round but by the end of the fourth round he was cut around both eyes, and on the forehead. Warrington landed some sharp combinations in the fifth and he remained dominant until he opened up again with a ferocious attack of hooks late in the seventh round that prompted the stoppage from referee Marcus McDonnell.

Also on the bill, Australia’s Ebanie Bridges (8-1, 3 KOs), 35, captured the IBF world bantamweight by unanimous decision after outworking Argentina’s Maria Cecilia Roman (16-5-1, 0 KOs), 39, who was making a seventh defense. Bridges, who was outpointed by Shannon Courtenay in another world title attempt last year, showed more desire to win by scores of 100-91 and 97-93 (twice).

“Everything I have sacrificed has been worth it,” Bridges said.

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