To take the belt you have to take a chance!
Josh Warrington edged a tough contest with British rival Kid Galahad to retain his IBF world featherweight title with a split-decision points win.
Warrington, 28, hoped the contest would be his last in his home city of Leeds as he eyes potential unification fights in the United States.
Galahad, 29, frustrated him early on and switched his stance to confuse.
He frequently grappled to kill any flow in the fight but the champion earned a split 116-112, 116-113 113-115 verdict.
“I think I did enough to nick it in the last two rounds because it was nip and tuck but you cannot win a title by hitting potshots,” said Warrington.
“They are not going to all be pretty and I’m glad I got through it, so hopefully there is a unification fight next.”
Warrington admitted afterward he felt “tense” given the bout was a gateway to potential unification bouts and there was a genuine rivalry on show, with the champion frequently raising his Sheffield opponent’s two-year backdated drugs ban from 2016 in the build-up.
Such was the animosity, British middleweight champion Liam Williams – who trains in the same gym as Galahad – stood ready with an umbrella to shield the challenger from the possibility of any objects being thrown during the ring walk.
But when the action started, Galahad lined up in the southpaw stance and seemed poised, slipping shots and throwing a left hand through the guard in the second round.
Warrington landed a right hand followed by a left in a smart flurry in the third but Galahad was resorting to single shots before tying his opponent up. In doing so he ensured the relentless work-rate Warrington had built his career on could never truly break out as the fight became scrappy and stop-start.
He was warned for excessive holding around the midway point but by that stage, he had silenced much of the home crowd, who expected Warrington – a 1-3 favorite with bookmakers – to make light work of a man he had beaten twice at an amateur level.
A cuffing right hand from Warrington caught the eye in the seventh but the scoring will undoubtedly prompt controversy, as there were clear pockets of action where Galahad’s movement was smart and his infrequent punching accurate.
Warrington’s father and trainer Sean O’Hagan told his fighter Galahad was “having the night of his life” and implored the champion to “do it for nine minutes” in the closing three rounds if he was to keep his belt.
And in truth, the final few rounds were where Warrington showed glimpses of the work-rate which earned him eye-catching wins over Lee Selby and Carl Frampton in 2018.
He still soaked up single shots – a smart uppercut in the 10th and a straight left in the 12th in particular – but drove forward to land work of his own and take a win that can perhaps take him and his army of fans across the Atlantic Ocean at last.