Josh Warrington gets surprise shot at IBF world title in his own backyard

Josh Warrington looks set to take on Kiko Martinez at the First Direct Arena with the Spaniard's IBF world title up for grabs.

Warrington has been handed an unexpected shot at the world featherweight title after a deal was struck to fight Kiko Martinez.

Martinez looks set to defend the IBF featherweight title Warrington once owned against the former champion on March 26 at the First Direct Arena, Leeds.

Martinez (43-10-2, 30 KOs) scored a surprise win over Kid Galahad in November in Galahad's own backyard of Sheffild.

In one of the shock's on 2021, Martinez floored Galahad at the end of the fifth round with a clubbing right hand and he promptly knocked him out at the start of the sixth with another pinpoint right.

Galahad had been on top until Martinez unleashed a peach of a shot in the fifth.

"It may be a surprise for everyone else but not me," he said. "For the last three years I've lived like a monk; no holidays, no time off and no time with my family," said the 35-year-old Martinez.

Warrington (30-1-1, 7 KOs) vacated his IBF featherweight world title last January after the governing body refused to sanction a unification fight with WBA champion Xu Can.

He then went on to fight Mauricio Lara in February and was himself shocked by the Mexican. Warrington suffered a heavy knockout in the ninth round in front of an empty Wembley Arena.

Lara had taken the Leeds man by surprise, but the 23-year-old was well-worth his win with some slick movement and pinpoint accuracy.

Mauricio Lara rematch

Warrington got a re-match with Lara (23-2-1, 16 KOs) in September. But the bout was declared a draw when an innocuous clash of heads midway through the second round proved decisive.

Warrington had started better at Headingley, but there were still worrying signs from Lara that he was equipped with the tools to sink his older opponent.

Warrington had promised the hoards of Leeds United fans a win to get his career back on track.

"I'm absolutely gutted," he said afterward a clash of styles has produced a monstrous cut above Lara's right eye. Before later telling Planet Sport: "I would love to put the Lara situation right."

Now though Warrington has been handed the chance to get back to the top with a shot at Martinez, who he previously defeated in 2017.

It's somewhat of a shock that Martinez decided to opt for a showdown with Warrington rather than another fighter ranked in the top 10.

It's also a calculated risk to fight again in the UK, and expecially in Warrington's Leeds stronghold, rather than at a neutral venue.

Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing are set to announce the fight soon.

Warrington's points win over Martinez

Warrington edged a gruelling points win over the Spaniard to retain his WBC international featherweight title in May 2017.

The former dental nurse extended his then unbeaten record to 25 fights with a majority decision victory.

Judge John Keane scored the fight a 114-114 draw but his fellow ringside officials went for Warrington's cleaner work with 116-112 cards.

ESPN report that DAZN and Matchroom Boxing are expected to announce Martinez-Warrington II as one of eight headliners that the streaming service will offer during February and March.

Another 126-pound title bout between Leigh Wood and Michael Conlan is scheduled for March 12.

The fights could well lead to a unification fight later in 2022.

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