Sun. Oct 24th, 2021


Even before calamity struck, Josh Warrington had arrived at Wembley Arena in a sombre mood. In the build-up to his battle with Mauricio Lara, Warrington had said: “I’m not happy. This isn’t the fight I want.”

The grim truth of that statement came to haunt Warrington as the former world champion lost the first fight of his career when he was knocked out brutally by the lightly-regarded and widely-dismissed Mexican featherweight in the ninth round.

Warrington had suffered a heavy knockdown in the fourth but the end was devastating when he was nailed by a left hand which sent him crashing to the floor. He lay stretched out on the canvas for a few worrying minutes while the paramedics attended to him. When he was finally helped to his feet Warrington walked slowly to his corner with an oxygen mask covering his face. It was stark proof that boxing remains an unforgiving arena when an apparently superior fighter underestimates a determined opponent and looks ahead to more lucrative bouts in the future.

At 22, Lara is the younger man by eight years, but he refused to be intimidated by Warrington. He established his intent at the outset and looked ready to trade from the opening bell. Lara was often crude and even wild but Warrington looked rusty and tentative in comparison. Despite a small cut weeping near his right eye Lara gained confidence and stalked Warrington relentlessly.

Warrington landed a few decent punches but by round four he was in deep trouble. He was rocked and then hurt by a big left which sent Warrington tumbling to the canvas. His senses looked scrambled but, somehow, he rose to his feet. Lara swarmed all over him and Warrington was in such distress that the referee came close to rescuing him.

Warrington was brave as he came out for the fifth. He was fortunate that Lara’s relative lack of experience meant the Mexican allowed Warrington some respite. The former champion landed enough punches to mark up Lara around both eyes. But Warrington always looked uncomfortable, shaking his head forlornly on occasions. Lara was clearly winning the fight but he made victory certain in round nine with traumatic impact.

The 30-year-old from Leeds had given up his IBF world title last month because he was not willing to fight his mandatory challenger, Kid Galahad, whom he had been lucky to defeat in June 2019. Warrington had hoped to defend his world title against Xu Can, the WBA champion, in a unification contest which would have generated far greater interest and much more money than an apparently routine bout against Lara. But the IBF insisted he fight Galahad instead. Warrington must now wish he had obeyed their directive.

Instead, he made a grim mistake in assuming that Lara was merely a journeyman he needed to fight under duress before moving on to enticing opportunities against Xu and Gary Russell Jr, the WBC title-holder. Those fights he craved have disappeared after this shock defeat.

Lara had a decent record, having won 21 of his 23 fights. But all those bouts, apart from one in Argentina, had been at home in Mexico. Lara had also been knocked out by another unheralded Mexican, Eliot Chavez, in May 2018. It could have seemed a daunting task for him to travel all the way to London, in the midst of a cold and biting winter, to face the undefeated Warrington whom many regarded as being as the best featherweight in the world until Saturday night. But the strange and eerie setting of an empty Wembley Arena proved to be far more disturbing for Warrington rather than Lara.

Warrington, to everyone’s relief, was able to congratulate Lara and walk on his own back to his dressing room. While Lara will dream of a crack at the WBO belt, held by his countryman Emanuel Navarrete, Warrington returns home to Leeds to wonder how it all went so wrong. It was a miserable night for him – and a salutary reminder never to discount the dangerous power of even an obscure Mexican warrior.

By admin

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