Josh Warrington is set to return to the ring for the first time in more than a year on 13 February when the former IBF featherweight champion takes on Mexico’s Mauricio Lara at Wembley. Should the ‘Leeds Warrior’ emerge victorious, he will open up a path to highly-lucrative bouts with WBA featherweight champion Xu Can or WBC strap-holder Gary Russell Jr in the spring, with both fights likely to have the Ring belt on the line, too.
Earlier this year Warrington vacated the IBF title he’d held since beating Lee Selby in 2018 when the governing body refused to sanction a unification clash with Can and instead ordered a mandatory with Kid Galahad, whom Warrington beat in 2019.
“It’s so important for Josh to be in a mega fight after Lara on 13 February,” said Warrington’s promoter Eddie Hearn. “He has his heart set on the Ring belt and it’s up to us to make the Can or Russell fights for April or early May. I’ve been working hard with Robert Diaz of Golden Boy to close Xu Can and also had several conversations with Luis De Cubas regarding a Gary Russell bout - both fights are Fight of the Year contenders.”
The road to success over the next 12 months looks to be mapped out but it will be far from easy, not least against Lara. When Lara makes the journey from Mexico City to London to face Warrington in a little under two weeks’ time he will do so as a massive underdog (22/1 with Betfred). But despite his long odds, the Mexican, who is 21-2 (14), will be travelling to England with a solid pedigree. The 22-year-old might seem a little green for Warrington, who is eight years his senior but Lara began his professional career at the age of just 17 and is considered one of his nation’s top boxers. Despite his talents though, he has never fought for a title.
“It’s disappointing we couldn’t have the IBF title on the line, but I can’t let those decisions stand in the way of me going down in British boxing history by facing the very best in the division,” said Warrington.
“I’ve always dreamt about winning the Ring belt, for me it leaves no doubt who the king of the division is. Right now, my mind and focus is on Lara for 13 February, and then I’m looking to pick up that beautiful red and blue belt.”
It’s lining up to be a blockbuster year in British boxing, with Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury’s battle for heavyweight supremacy, Josh Taylor’s unification bout with Jose Ramirez, Carl Frampton’s attempt at becoming a three-weight champion against Jamel Herring, and Billy Joe Saunders’ mouth-watering clash with Canelo all set to entertain us over the coming months. Should he beat Lara, add Warrington to that list of Britain’s potential heroes of 2021.