Josh Warrington suffers terrible shock on ugly night to reset journey to the unknown

Josh Warrington suffers terrible shock on ugly night to reset journey to the unknown

February 14, 2021

Josh Warrington reacts after his shock defeat

The end of Josh Warrington’s fight was terrible to watch late on Saturday night as he reeled, stumbled and went down limp and heavily for the end in round nine at Wembley.

It was officially over at 54 seconds of the ninth, with Warrington sitting up and looking at the referee – there was no need for a count, just care at that time. Warrington was finished, make no mistake.

In one of the ring’s neutral corners, Mauricio Lara, looked on in silence, curbing his celebrations, but smiling at his handiwork; the 22-year-old Mexican was not meant to win. There was nothing in his record of 24 fights to suggest the savagery of his fists. It was a terrible shock for Warrington and British boxing.

Warrington walked from the ring, still unsteady and dazed and after another medical examination was taken to hospital as a precaution. It was close to midnight when his team left Wembley and closer to 4am when his brain scan was cleared, but a fractured jaw was discovered. It was a strange beating on a truly shocking and ugly night.

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Warrington finally made his way back to his beloved Leeds as dawn broke. It was a night he will never forget and a night that he will have to decide if he wants to risk again. The rematch is an option, retirement is an option – boxing often leaves the loser faced with extremes; the winner of a fight like that believe he can walk on water for his next miracle.

The fight changed forever when Warrington was dropped heavily for the first time in his professional career in round four. Warrington’s arm was trapped under his body, his eyes wide with utter fear and shock and he struggled to beat the count. It was harrowing to watch.

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It is too simple to insist the fight should have been stopped in the fourth when he finally regained his feet, stood unsteadily, his face a blur and stumbled before he was allowed to continue. The referee, Howard Foster, looked closely at the fighter he was there to protect and let him continue. In that fraction of a second, that moment when Foster has to use everything he knows from a life as the third-man in the ring, he decided to let Warrington continue. He made his decision, he was there.

Warrington was a heavy favourite over Lara

Warrington survived the remaining seconds of the round, holding and rolling and praying. At the bell to the end the fourth he was swept up by his trainer and father, Sean O’Hagan, and placed on the corner stall. There is no magic sponge in a fight and he looked absolutely finished as he sat in that corner. Again, O’Hagan decided his son could get up and go out for round five, he decided his son could continue. Warrington did look a bit more composed as the bell sounded, but only just. He still looked shocked, his eyes fixed in a cold stare, his legs jerkily trying to get him smoothly through the fight.

Foster and O’Hagan made professional decisions under the type of pressure that exists in an unforgiving business. They were harshly criticised by the midnight judges on social media, which is now a serious peril of participation in any professional sport. At ringside, well about thirty-feet back because of Covid restrictions, I agreed with both Foster and O’Hagan and I would have agreed had either of them stopped the fight. The boxing business is a very, very hard sport, not a nice game and risks are taken. It is what they do, which is overlooked by the midnight crusaders.

In the fifth, Warrington held his hands high, moved, held and survived the round. I thought he did enough to win it on my scorecard; Lara should have jumped on him from the bell, but perhaps he was feeling the effects of the fourth. Lara is, after all, just a boxing baby, inexperienced and perhaps he had nothing left, perhaps the kid’s tank was empty?

In the sixth, another left hook from Lara hurt Warrington and in the seventh Warrington was shaken again; Warrington was fighting on instinct, his legs still stiff and too often his punches lacked real rhythm. It was pure guts, but Lara was winning the rounds – the fight was a disaster.

The end in the ninth was not for the squeamish, the replays, which were sensibly held back until Warrington was standing, reveal a lengthy series of heavy shots that connected and set Warrington on his downfall. The final left hook took away all the strength and structure from Warrington’s body and he went down heavily. There was no count, no need this time.

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There was another type of silence when the fight finished – it was disbelief and despair. The ringside trauma team swarmed through the ropes, testing Warrington and thankfully sitting him up after a few tense minutes. He was never unconscious, just totally exhausted.

Warrington’s famous fans would have not been able to help against Lara; their desperate soundtrack would have added to the calamity as they shared his desolation at the end.

The Kaiser Chiefs once serenaded Warrington as he walked across the turf at his beloved Elland Road to a fight for the IBF featherweight world title; he won that night, his flock had followed him from the very start, it was their special journey together and then the locks were placed on the doors. And then Lara ruined it.

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Three weeks ago Warrington was unbeaten in 30 fights and the IBF featherweight champion with a planned defence against Lara. He relinquished his title to secure bigger fights, but stuck with Lara. The rest is dreadful and painful history.

There will be an inquest of known and hopefully unknown factors, a search for some answers other than Lara’s fists. Warrington had been out of the ring for 16-months, Lara fought five times last year, was making weight a factor, a shoulder injury, did Warrington have Covid last May? There will be robust talks, trust me.

The journey starts again for Warrington; the end destination is unknown right now after such a bad loss. It was a beating without witnesses, but nothing is private in the boxing game.

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