Carl Frampton foe Josh Warrington on his rise from wannabe to champion

Carl Frampton and Josh Warrington after Frampton's win over Luke Jackson fight at Windsor Park

JOSH Warrington was there to raise his profile and show his face but he looked more of a tourist than a future contender at ringside for Carl Frampton's second fight with Leo Santa Cruz in Las Vegas last January.

He dreamt of fighting in ‘Sin City' himself one day but that day looked a long way off as Frampton and Santa Cruz went at it in the MGM because Warrington was rated as British level, maybe European level, back then.

The genial Leeds native answered questions about his next fight but there was no mention of Frampton or Santa Cruz. Rumour had it that he was going to come up against Marc McCullough, who may reach world level in the future but hasn't got there yet.

“Fight's off,” Warrington explained adding that he'd love the opportunity to share the stage with Frampton one day, or Santa Cruz, or Lee Selby, or Oscar Valdez, or Gary Russell jnr… Any of the champions.

So many people doubted he'd get there but he got his chance and he took it in very convincing fashion by hammering Selby over 12 rounds at his beloved Elland Road last May. Now he is the IBF champion and Frampton – who of course lost to Santa Cruz that night in Vegas – is the challenger at the MEN Arena in Manchester.

Warrington, a dental technician by profession, combined work with boxing for nine years before he won his world title and he's determined that Frampton shall not pass on Saturday night

“I went into the Lee Selby fight and I was a 4/1 underdog,” said Warrington.

“Nobody gave me any chance whatsoever but I didn't just win the world title, I ripped it out of his hands. I beat him convincingly and in style as well.

“Carl will say that he's at a higher level because he's been at world level longer than me but he's got a few years on me and it's all about timing. There would have been a few years in his career when he was about to step up to world level and this is my time now to step up and dominate for a good few years.”

One thing Warrington won't lack for on Saturday night is workrate. He wasn't giving his gameplan away but if he can slip enough Frampton counters he'll fancy his chances of landing the shots that will see him to another against-the-odds win victory.

“We've been working on a few things but we'll see how the fight pans out,” he said.

“I want this really bad. I've worked hard to win a world title and I won't give it up, I know Carl wants to be world champion again and he's waited patiently for another shot but I've been a pro for nine years and it has taken a long time to get to this world title.

“I'm not just about to roll over and give it up like that. I'll work over the full 36 minutes and give it absolutely everything I've got. I believe it's more than what Carl has.”

He has been quoted as saying he believes he will stop Frampton and his father and coach Sean O'Hagan predicted an early win for his son last week but Warrington says he was misquoted on that point.

He claims he said he had the tools to knock Frampton out but stopped short of saying that he would.

“Someone asked me if I thought I'd got the power to stop him and I said: ‘Yeah, if I see the opportunity then I ain't going to let it lie',” he told The Irish News.

“In the Selby fight I felt like I could have stopped him if I'd pushed hard and given it a bit more but I didn't need to do that.

“Going into this one, if I do see the opportunity I won't let up.”

Leeds United were originally due to play Aston Villa in Birmingham on Saturday but the Championship fixture has been changed to allow fans to follow Warrington to Manchester. Last Saturday the Yorkshire hordes crossed the Pennines to win in Bolton and ‘the Leeds Warrior' intends to do the same this weekend.

“It were another good win,” he said of Leeds' 1-0 win at Bolton.

“We're top of the league and it's onwards and upwards.

“Leeds have started the season off really well and I've said that the year Leeds get promoted I'll win the world title. I've won it and I'm going to hold on to it.”

Last time Frampton fought at the MEN, the travelling fans drowned out Scott Quigg's modest following and roared ‘the Jackal' to a comprehensive points win. On Saturday night both fighters will be backed by thousands of partisan fans.

“It's going to be electric,” Warrington predicted.

“I've been to Belfast many a time. I've watch Carl fight and I've witnessed the atmosphere first hand in Belfast and I know that the Belfast boys make fantastic noise and they know their boxing.

“I've had the pleasure of meeting a couple of the boxing fans over in Belfast on the press tour and I've met a few Irish Leeds fans down at Elland Road who will be sat on the fence with who they want to win. I know my fans are brilliant, they'll make plenty of noise and Carl's do the same.

“We're talking about two of the best sets of fans in world boxing so it's going to make for a fantastic atmosphere.”

Warrington knows that a win on Saturday night and he could be on his way to Las Vegas next year. All he has to do is beat his one-time hero but that's easier said than done.

CARL Frampton agreed that his rumble with Josh Warrington could have been “a stadium fight” but says he didn't want to hang around waiting for the weather to improve so it could be held outside.

Now 31, Frampton is in a hurry to win his fourth world championship belt when he takes on defending champion Warrington at the MEN Arena.

“This is a big arena – the biggest in the country,” said Frampton.

“The fight could've been a stadium fight but I don't want to wait around for good weather.

“I want to keep this momentum I've never had in my career. I don't think I've been this busy since 2012 or 2013. It's incredible to be so active.

“I've fought in the Manchester Arena before when I beat Scott Quigg. That was a special atmosphere but this will be even louder.”

Frampton's stablemate Rocky Fielding lost to brutal puncher Saul ‘Canelo' Alvarez at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Trainer Jamie Moore was ringside for the fight but has returned to add the finishes touches to Frampton's preparation.

“We've got a busy gym at the moment but nobody gets jealous or annoyed because having both Jamie and Nigel (Travis) means there's loads of time for the fighters,” said Frampton.

“One guy works with Jamie, one works with Nigel and others hit the bags. There are different time slots and it's all very well planned out. We don't fight over attention.”

Joining Frampton on a colossal card are MTK Global team-mates Murray, Michael Conlan, Billy Joe Saunders, Paddy Barnes Troy Williamson and Sam Maxwell.

Meanwhile, Steven Ward has been forced to pull out of next Saturday night's star-studded bill at Manchester's MEN Arena.

‘The Quiet Man' suffered an injury in his last fight that has not fully healed and so, on medical grounds, he has had to withdraw from undercard.

“I'm gutted to announce I have been taken off the bill this weekend due to the doctor refusing me permission to box due to an injury that occurred in my last fight that's taken longer to heal than anticipated,” Ward explained.

“I apologize to those that bought tickets and planned a trip!

“I'm still looking forward to going over and support all the other lads and then start getting ready for a great 2019.”

FORMER IBF European Lightweight champion and British title challenger Paul Hyland jnr has been pitched into another difficult contest when he takes on Miroslav Serban (10-1) of the Czech Republic at the Ulster Hall on Saturday, February 9

The MHD Promotions show, in association with A McClean Bookmakers, will be headlined by Commonwealth super-featherweight champion and world title challenger James Tennyson and will also include Tommy McCarthy, Feargal McCrory, Luke Wilton, Mathew Fitzsimmons and Cathy McAleer.

Serban is the Czech Republic super-lightweight and last year he won the UBO (Universal Boxing Organisation) International super-lightweight Championship by scoring a unanimous decision over French challenger Bryan Boussis.

The twenty seven-year-old Czech is a former World Kick Boxing champion and will be looking to score an upset win over talented Belfast fighter ‘Hylo'.

“When I offered the exciting contest to Hylo he jumped at the chance,” said promoter Mark Dunlop

“He is looking to charge at the British or Commonwealth titles is 2019 and knows there is no room for error at the Ulster Hall.”

For tickets, contact Ulster Hall Box Office or call 07712 473905.

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