Warrington Upsets Selby

By Caryn A. Tate on May 19, 2018
Warrington Upsets Selby
Warrington fought aggressively, trying to make it a dog fight. (Action Images via Reuters)

Saturday night in Leeds, UK, IBF featherweight world champion Lee Selby defended his title versus hometown fighter Josh Warrington…

From Elland Road Football Ground in Leeds, United Kingdom, IBF featherweight world champion Lee Selby (26-2, 9 KOs) defended his title versus hometown fighter Josh Warrington (27-0, 6 KOs). This would be the 31-year-old champion’s second defense of his title, which he won last July. This was Warrington’s first world title challenge.

In the first round, Warrington came out aggressively with a double jab. He did his best to keep Selby on the back foot, and rightly sought to prevent the champion from establishing a rhythm. But Selby’s good boxing fundamentals enabled him to roll with it, and he took over the round nearly halfway through and put the challenger in reverse.

In round two, Selby was cut over the left eye when Warrington leapt in with a shot. But the damage was actually caused by an accidental head butt (so ruled by the referee) that may have dazed Selby a bit. Blood flowed immediately and appeared to inhibit Selby’s vision; he began getting touched by shots that he wasn’t early on. Later in the round, Warrington visibly hurt Selby with a right hand. Luckily for the champion, it was at the very end of the round and he got a break.

When round three began, Selby came out boxing well, trying to maintain distance and control the flow of the bout. He seemed to understand that he needed to outbox the younger fighter and not allow him to get inside in order to clearly win rounds. When Selby pivoted and kept Warrington turning, he kept the challenger’s hands at home. When Selby stopped, Warrington felt confident enough to move in and would periodically have good success.

As the rounds continued, Selby got cut over his right eye as well, seemingly by a punch. It was a tough situation for the champion, since he switches stances and perhaps could have had the option of switching to southpaw if the cut over his left eye began impeding his vision; but with the cut over his right eye, he was in the same boat either way.

Warrington knew it. He fought hard and aggressively, trying to make it a dog fight. Selby did his best to keep him off and use his superior boxing skills to keep the challenger on the outside, but by my scorecard, the rounds went back and forth between the fighters. It was a much closer fight than most people anticipated.

In the sixth, the referee paused the action for the ringside doctors to check Selby’s cuts. They were clearly concerned but allowed the fight to continue. By that point, Selby’s vision appeared to be negatively impacted by the blood coming from the cuts—he tried to box and keep Warrington on the outside, but didn’t have nearly the success he did earlier in the bout.

It looked more and more likely that the fight might be stopped due to the cuts. Since the one over the left eye was caused by an accidental head butt, if the bout would be stopped due to the bleeding of that cut, the result would be determined by the scorecards.

Warrington regularly punched Selby behind the head when he grew frustrated on the inside, and only once did the referee warn him for it. In the later rounds, particularly the eighth, it became obnoxious. Jamie Salagar, Selby’s trainer, complained about the blatant rabbit punching to the referee, to no avail. It’s disturbing that some officials don’t seem to understand that rabbit punching isn’t just a foul—it’s highly dangerous, and the sport has multiple examples of what can happen to a fighter who got hit too much in that sensitive area. There’s simply no excuse, with all that we now know, for a referee to excuse clearly intentional rabbit punching.

But Selby continued boxing, revealing his enormous heart, and in the next few rounds he began focusing on body work—a crafty choice and one that seemed to pay off. Warrington backed off a bit, which is just the break Selby needed.

Still, the last few rounds were very close. The commentary was oddly biased for Warrington—perhaps they were swayed by the blood flowing for Selby, or the crowd cheering on the local Warrington, who did better than expected. Scoring by clean punches landed—not by blood, aggression on its own accord, etc.—I had it a draw. To my mind, that means a close win for either fighter is fair.

The official scorecards read 115-113 (Selby), 116-112 and 115-113 (Warrington). It was an impressive win for Warrington, who took advantage of his opportunity and the cuts Selby sustained. And Selby fought well and bravely—he just wasn’t able to maintain consistency.

Carl Frampton was mentioned as a potential opponent for the winner of this contest. While Warrington is a good fighter, I don’t see him being able to withstand Frampton’s superior boxing ability and punching power. But it will be a great fight for the fans, particularly those in the UK.

Check out more of Caryn’s work at http://www.CarynATate.com and follow her on Twitter@carynatate

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