Martinez vs Warrington II: ‘Leeds Warrior’ must win to salvage underwhelming Matchroom return

Josh Warrington’s return to Matchroom boxing has been a sh**-show. He simply cannot afford to lose to Kiko Martinez on March 26th…

Josh Warrington's affinity with Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn is well-known.

Therefore it will likely frustrate Hearn somewhat that the best nights of Warrington's career to date were promoted by his rival, Frank Warren.

'The Leeds Warrior' could not come to an agreement with Hearn over a new contract in 2016. So, he packed his bags and jumped ship to pen a multi-fight deal with Queensberry Promotions.

Warrington was on the cusp of reaching world level when he made this switch. After beating Kiko Martinez and Dennis Deylan in back-to-back fights at Leeds' First Direct Arena, he got his world title shot.

His crowning moment came in front of 25,000 of his fans at Leeds United's Elland Road. He dethroned IBF world featherweight champion, Lee Selby, by split decision.

The Brit went on to defend his belt in a barn burner against Carl Frampton and in a damp squib versus Kid Galahad.

Warrington's last bout contracted to Queensberry was again at the First Direct Arena as he stopped Sofiane Takoucht inside two rounds.

He and Warren reaped the benefits of their partnership as he fulfilled his dream to become a world champion.

The Leeds-born boxer - aged 28 when he beat Takoucht in 2019 - was approaching his prime and his next promotional move was vital.

Given the success they enjoyed together, it was expected that he would extend his deal with Warren.

Though to the annoyance of the veteran promoter, Warrington opted to see out the latter part of his career with Matchroom. The reasons for this move were outlined by the fighter:

"It's great to be back with Matchroom, Sky and now DAZN and I'm very excited about the future.

"I have enjoyed my time at BT but now I'm looking forward to going on to achieve my dreams of both fighting in the USA and unifying the division."

Warrington clearly believed that with Queensberry, there would be limitations to what he can achieve. But with Matchroom, he could fight in the states and further assert his dominance on the featherweight division.

Unfortunately, over the past two years, his return to Matchroom has been nothing short of a sh*t-show.

It has not all been his fault, as the impact of Covid-19 meant he did not fight for nearly a year and a half.

Given his limited amateur experience and immense hometown support, Warrington is a fighter who thrives off the atmosphere of a crowd.

So many were concerned when it was announced that he would fight Mauricio Lara in his first fight back with Matchroom behind closed doors in February 2021.

His Mexican opponent was an unknown quantity so Warrington was the heavy favourite heading into their clash at Wembley Arena.

While this was seen as a difficult test for Warrington, not many would have anticipated what unfolded that night.

The 'Leeds Warrior' was battered from pillar to post by Lara, whose punch power caused the favourite all sorts of problems.

Warrington's legs were gone early on and he was dropped in the fourth. He never quite recovered as Lara was able to stop him in the ninth round.

It was one of the shock results of 2021 but the manner of Warrington's defeat made it even more striking.

He showed his champion spirit though as he stepped back in with Lara for a rematch later that year at Headingley Stadium in Leeds.

This was a major outdoor event coming out of the pandemic era. As always, Warrington was backed in his hometown as fans flocked to the venue in the hope that they would witness their man get his redemption.

Sadly, this was not how it played out. The rematch with Lara ended prematurely as a result of an unfortunate head clash in the second round.

Lara was cut above his left eye. It was ruled that he could not continue so the bout was ruled as a technical draw.

Two months later, Galahad defended his IBF world title against Martinez at Sheffield Arena. This was the Englishman's first defence of his belt.

The champion boxed well for the first five rounds as he was up on the cards and in control. His world came crumbling down at the end of the fifth though as Martinez dropped him.

The bell saved Galahad but he was stopped via Martinez's first punch in the sixth round. This was an extraordinary conclusion as the Spaniard became a two-time world champion in his mid-30s.

With Galahad stepping up to super featherweight, Martinez needed a challenger for his newly-won IBF world title.

With him wanting to maximise his purse, Warrington was gift-wrapped an opportunity to reclaim his world title.

Now, Warrington did not exactly earn his shot this time around, but money talks and from a business side this rematch made a lot of sense.

Martinez-Warrington II takes place on Saturday 26th March at the FDA arena. The same place they fought the first time around in 2017.

Boxing is a funny game. If you rewind six months, this is a rematch no one would have predicted to happen in 2022.

But here we are and Warrington has a chance to kickstart his career and Matchroom return two years later than initially expected.

Following his struggles against Lara, Warrington can now pick up where he left off in 2020 if he dethrones Martinez.

If he loses though, it's difficult to foresee a route back to world level for Warrington, considering his age and the tough fights he's clocked up.

Warrington has to win because his career could well be defined by this rematch.

A loss could see him retire early with him left brewing what could have been. While a win would leave him with numerous roads to go down domestically and internationally.

Earlier this month, Leigh Wood hung onto his WBA (Regular) featherweight belt as he pulled off an unbelievable comeback to defeat Michael Conlan.

'Leigh-thal' has been promised a fight at Nottingham Forest's City Ground, so a unification with Warrington would be a good route to go down.

There are also possible fights against Leo Santa Cruz and Emanuel Naravette which would likely land Warrington a dream fight in the USA.

And we cannot rule out a trilogy against Lara, as both have unfinished business with the other after the events of last year.

Warrington's shambolic return to Matchroom boxing could yet be salvaged. Though that is dependent on how he fares against Martinez this weekend. No pressure, then…

Read more: Josh Warrington drops Leigh Wood hint but Kiko Martinez rematch is his focus

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