Saturday night at the First Direct Arena in Leeds sees hometown hero, Josh Warrington, make a second defence of his IBF Featherweight Title.
He faces his mandatory challenger, in Qatari born, Sheffield based, Kid Galahad, in a battle of unbeaten fighters.
It’s a cracking card, and the all of the drama unfolds from 8pm on BT Sport 1 in the UK, with ESPN + picking up the USA rights. Here I preview a bustling bill.
Josh Warrington (28-0,KO6) v Kid Galahad (26-0, KO15) – 12 Rounds, IBF Featherweight Title. 2018 was quite simply a dream year for Josh Warrington.
After patiently waiting in line for a shot at world honours, picking up Commonwealth and European Titles as well as fringe governing body belts, Warrington finally got his chance at Elland Road, home of his beloved Leeds United, in May last year.
He started the contest against IBF Champion, Lee Selby, as a firm betting underdog, but, roared on by a partisan home crowd, Warrington turned in a career best display to dethrone the Welshman by split decision. This result didn’t tell the story, as Warrington was simply too good for Selby, always getting the better of exchanges between the two, and Selby struggled to keep the pressure fighting of Warrington at bay.
After fulfilling a dream, Josh would be forgiven for making a routine first defence, but he chose to make a maiden defence against Carl Frampton at the Manchester Arena in December 2018.
Again, Josh would begin as second favourite, but again the Yorkshireman defied the odds. Warrington was near punch perfect against the two weight World Champion Irishman, and pounded out a clear unanimous decision to keep his belt in an eye catching win.
After being afforded a voluntary defence against Frampton, Warrington must now face his mandatory challenger, Kid Galahad, in order to unlock the doors to some massive fights at Featherweight. Galahad, like Warrington, is unbeaten, and comes to Leeds from nearby Sheffield in bullish mood, confident he can rip the belt away from the Champion.
A product of the famed Wincobank Gym, Galahad turned professional in 2009, and has picked up British, Commonwealth and European Titles at Super Bantamweight.
After a bright start to his career, Galahad hit the skids in 2015, when banned for two years for a failed drug test. He tested positive for banned substance stanozolol, an anabolic steroid.
Galahad, real name Barry Awad, maintained his innocence, pleading that his brother put the steroids in his protein shake after Galahad refused to give him money, and appealed against a ban, but the story was rejected by UKAD and the ban was upheld. He managed to cut the suspension by six months, and returned to action in April 2016.
Galahad is unbeaten in eight outings since the ban, and has boxed his way up the rankings with the IBF, culminating in a final eliminator points win against Toka Kahn Clary in Boston in October 2018, to secure his shot at Warrington. His last contest was a marking time eight round points win against Brayan Mairena in Sheffield in December 2018.
Prediction: Both Warrington and Galahad haven’t seen eye to eye at all during the build up, with barbs being exchanged regularly via Social Media. From the notorious Ingle stable, Galahad is an adept switch-hitter, and throws punches in various combinations. For Warrington, it will be important to negate Galahad’s style as early as possible, and he can do this by applying his now customary pressure fighting. I expect Galahad to dictate the early going with rangy and flashy combinations, but once Josh swarms over his opponent, I expect the tide to turn, and the fight could well turn messy, playing into the Yorkshireman’s hands. I favour Warrington to retain his belt via clear decision after gaining a foothold after the first few rounds.
Two tasty Commonwealth Title fights form the backbone of the undercard in Leeds.
Lyon Woodstock (12-1, KO5) faces a stiff test as he challenges for the vacant Commonwealth Super Featherweight Title.
He meets fellow co-challenger, Zelfa Barrett (21-1, KO13) at the First Direct Arena, in what could prove to be a crossroads fight for both men, with both losing their unbeaten records in 2018.
Woodstock lost his unbeaten record to Archie Sharp at the Morningside Arena in October 2018, where he was floored in the opening round, before being soundly beaten on points by the Welling man, who also took Lyon’s WBO European belt with his win.Woodstock bounced back in March at the same Leicester venue, outpointing the tough Nicaraguan, Sergio Gonzalez over eight rounds.
Manchester based “Brown Flash” Barrett, is the nephew of former European Champion, and World Title challenger, Pat “Black Flash” Barrett. Zelfa has also previously held the English title at super featherweight.
Barrett suffered his sole setback in 22 outings in February 2018, when Dundee’s Ronnie Clark dropped him in the sixth round, before losing his IBF European Title via majority decision. He has since returned with a points win over Edwin Tellez in June 2018, before stopping the same opponent in two rounds at the end of April. Woodstock won every round of an eight rounder with Tellez at Elland Road, Leeds in May last year.
A win for either man in Yorkshire could set up the prospect of a British Title shot with Ibstock’s British champion, Sam “The Bullet” Bowen later on this year. Bowen is next due to face his mandatory challenger, Anthony Cacace, rumoured to be taking place on the undercard of a big open air show at Falls Park in Belfast in August. Bowen was last seen stopping Jordan McCorry on the same bill as Woodstock in March.
Prediction: This one is so close to call, with a strong argument for both. Woodstock showed fragility in defeat to Sharp, while Barrett also lost confidence against Ronnie Clark. I lean towards the slightly more season Barrett to take a razor thin points win, but wouldn’t be surprised with a draw being the verdict.
The other Rainbow Belt offering sees the son of a legend, James Metcalf (19-0, KO11) clash with Jason Welborn (24-7, KO7) for the vacant Super Welterweight Title. Metcalf, the son of Shea Neary, has made steady progress thus far, without facing anyone of real note. He has picked up the WBC International belt, with a last round stoppage of Aitor Nieto in Manchester in June 2018. Tividale’s Jason Welborn represents by far Metcalf’s stiffest test, and will certainly come to win.
Welborn enjoyed a fairytale 2018. He captured the British Middleweight Title after two previous failed attempts at Welter and Super Welter, by defeating Tommy Langford via split decision in a classic in May. A rematch was a natural, and it was another barn burner. Welborn knocked Langford down twice, but Tommy rallied to take the fight to the cards, where Welborn repeated his first win via another tight decision, by one point on two cards.
This win paved the way for a dream World Title shot, on the undercard of Tyson Fury’s challenge to Deontay Wilder’s WBC Heavyweight Title in December 2018. He dropped back down to Super Welterweight to challenge Jarrett Hurd for the WBA (Super) IBF and IBO belts. Welborn was spirited, and had his successes, but ultimately succumbed to a Hurd body shot in round four.
Prediction: After unexpectedly challenging for World Titles, Welborn may not harbour the same ambitions he once had. At 33, and with seven defeats on the slate, four by knockout, Welborn will be up against a hungry fighter in Metcalf.
Metcalf can bang, and has won his last five by stoppage. I expect a competitive first half of this contest, before Metcalf takes over for a stoppage win just after the halfway mark, possibly via body shots. Several other Frank Warren prospects are in action on the card.
Lyndon Arthur (14-0, KO11) has an eight round outing at Light Heavyweight against Andrzej Soldra (15-6-1, KO7) and exciting Featherweight ticket seller, Jack Bateson (9-0, KO3) meets Bayardo Ramos (8-10-1, KO4) also over eight.
Troy Williamson, Mark Heffron and Alex Morrison are also all in action on a bustling bill.