PREVIEW: World champion Lee Selby must continue to keep his cool amidst Warrington’s verbal onslaught

PREVIEW: World champion Lee Selby must continue to keep his cool amidst Warrington’s verbal onslaught

Tensions are threatening to boil over as Barry Town’s Lee Selby (26-1, 9KO) is days away from defending his world featherweight title against Leeds’ Josh Warrington (26-0, 6KO).

Wales’ 12th world champion, owner of the International Boxing Federation [IBF] belt, is halfway through an edgy fight week schedule ahead of Saturday’s long-awaited meeting with a very vocal mandatory challenger.

The all-British contest will headline Frank Warren’s show at Elland Road, the outdoor stadium home of Leeds United FC, with broadcasting rights belonging to the BT Sport and BoxNation channels.

When not passionately fist pumping, Warrington has waged an often unprovoked war of words on Selby, who by comparison has had little to say in recent months. The champion has issued handfuls of straightforward warnings when he’s had his say, which have largely been ignored.

Warrington, an increasingly enthusiastic opponent, hasn’t paid much attention to Selby’s replies and he’s appeared to get carried away with the event on more than one occasion. That includes yesterday’s episode as he slapped the Welshman’s elbow from behind during a heated pose for photographers. Security soon separated the duo.

Somehow, Selby has stayed cool so far amidst some schoolyard level taunting from Warrington. The pair are likely to cross paths again at today’s open workout and the weigh-in on Friday.

If those temperamental indicators are reflected in the fight, it could play in to Selby’s hands. It’s no secret that the back foot operator is more comfortable in retreat, establishing his jab and responding with long range counters when opponents over reach. The second phase of this is likely to include Selby using his size advantage and pressing the action as the rounds go on – expect him to visit the body consistently, too.

An all round approach will be needed and it’s something Warrington won’t have faced in his professional career. This form has been shown in flashes over the last three years. If his fifth world title defence lasts the full distance, Selby must know that he needs a full 36 minute repeat of his best showings to be sure of a decision win over the house fighter.

Warrington’s tense and aggressive approach is the type of style to come forward and play in to Selby’s hands. It could be akin to the action that unfolded in the dethroning of Evgeny Gradovich, who owns more power than Warrington but shares a similar stance. The challenger will be spurred on by his fans and it’ll call on all of his willpower to ignore their energy to stay tactically disciplined.

Although Warrington has earned his status as number one contender, cracks have briefly appeared during his run to this point. An aged Kiko Maritnez recently came a round away from springing an unlikely upset, whilst there were lessons to be learned in strange points victories of Dennis Tubieron and Hisashi Amagasa.

Those bouts have been sandwiched between better stoppages of Patrick Hyland and Dennis Ceylan. Both showings demonstrated Warrigton’s best attributes – fitness and a constantly high output. The work rate has found the breaking point of some opponents and Selby’s fitness – at a weight Warrington claims he struggles at – is likely to be called on, like it was in his below par triumph of Eduardo Ramirez (20-1-3, 7KO) in December.

Hometowner Warrington is placing particular importance on the role of the 25,000 hostile fans, who are due to be in attendance on the pitch and in the stands. It’s understandable that Warrington would expect to feel a natural boost, though the hope that it equally deflates Selby’s performance is a less-believable stretch.

The Welshman, who is trained by Tony Borg and managed by Sanigar Events, is no stranger to travelling to his opponent’s backyards. Selby’s previous British title wins included impressive away day wins against Stephen Smith and Martin Lindsay. Though the size of previous local crowds have been significantly smaller, the intensity in the closer confines of more intimate venues is a progressive learning curve ahead of Selby’s next task.

Should Selby produce another dominant victory, like last summer’s domination against former world champion Jonathan Victor Barros, the crowd is less likely to be as sporting as the aforementioned knowledgeable fans in Liverpool and Belfast were.

There have been unsavory scenes at Warrington’s shows in the past… and that’s when the unbeaten contender has been winning! Tribal football fans, a showing of the FA Cup final and a mini Kaiser Chiefs concert will create the ultimate Leeds United atmosphere.

If being world champion wasn’t enough motivation, Belfast’s Carl Frampton will be a keen observer from ringside. The offer of date in August at the Windsor Park stadium against the former two-weight world champion has been promised to the winner of Selby versus Warrington.

IMAGE BY FRANK WARREN.

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