No Easy Choices For Josh Warrington After Latest Defeat
(This commentary item appeared originally on David’s site www.boxingwriter.co.uk in the aftermath of Luis Alberto Lopez’s decision win over Josh Warrington to win the IBF Featherweight title Saturday night in Leeds, England. Make sure to follow David for more great insight and content from the U.K. @theboxingwriter)
There is an uneasy solemnity that drapes, inky black, on those standing beside a beaten champion. Neon lights trace across drunken faces outside the ropes, microphones are readied and cornermen wipe sweat from opponent’s shoulders and blood from brows.
Rivals embrace. Affirming their mutual respect. The imposters of triumph and disaster are met.
Doctrine is observed. Doctors assured.
It is a peculiar, haunting void. A type of professional grieving commences. Sermons are offered. The flush of adrenalin weakens. Reality stirs.
Those closest search for reason and for words of reassurance. Rendered motionless. Speechless too, but for familiar cliche. Startled by their own dependency, they know not where to be, where to look or what to do. The former champion still prowls, still sweats, still fighting the onrushing truth. Into the chaos beyond defeat, into the collapse of the exit plan, the lost income and stark realisation of a peak now passed, many more than just the deposed champion are plunged.
Defeats cause adversity
A defeat can often be a type of reckoning. Always unwelcome, it searches for the hidden truths. The miles not run, the sessions missed or, as Josh Warrington discovered on Saturday night, the irreversible signs of age. Perhaps noted in the convenience of silence or with a momentary locking of eyes, but dismissed or disguised in the privacy of training nevertheless.
As the boxing truism insists; fighters are the first to know but the last to say.
Within this post-fight chaos, in the pain of the aftermath, the popular Yorkshireman, and twice the IBF Featherweight champion, must decide if the risk inherent in continuing to fight and the pursuit of that which he felt he’d already earned; unifications, and the glamour of an American debut, are worth the sacrifice and the growing risk of damage.
However unjust Warrington finds the past two years, suffocated by the pandemic as they were; the knockout defeat to unheralded Mauricio Lara with no fans permitted, the technical draw that ended their rematch or the broken jaw acquired in beating veteran Spaniard Kiko Martinez, the march of time doesn’t care. His body has aged. Momentum, that most elusive of friends, was lost along the way and the trajectory of his career and the contentment he sought irrevocably altered.
Although Featherweights do not improve in their thirties, and a poor performance is rarely a blip, Warrington has been a victim of timing. It is now four years on from the brilliance of his win over Carl Frampton, then aged 28. The subsequent period didn’t deliver the opponents he craved and his exhilarating best deserved.
If he chooses the narrative of the victim, dressed as defiance as it will be and entirely at odds with his fighting persona, he will undoubtedly elect to continue. To chase that which seems ever further from his grasp. There is a point in a fighter’s career where his inherent stubbornness, necessary on the way up, can be a problem on the way down. A point when a trusted confidant must risk that bond in the name of honesty. This may not be that point for Warrington, if it is not, it waits in the long grass of 2023.
Warrington, and his promoter Eddie Hearn, will pursue fights with the champions of other sanctioning bodies – the very fights he assumed would follow the brilliance of his win over Frampton – but he will do so now with the tools of an ageing former champion. He will likely be required to travel for those opportunities and while his loyal and vociferous faithful will relish the experience in their thousands, they will travel in hope, rather than the expectation of 2019.
Rematching Lopez isn’t a great idea
A rematch with Lopez is neither financially attractive nor filled with the promise of a different outcome.
There is much to be said for retiring a fight too early rather than the more traditional fight too late so widely adopted. But then fighters rarely depart with a sense there is something yet to give, for if they do, they invariably return. Unsatisfied in the serenity of civilian life. There are no easy ways out. As the song goes.
Dispassionate observers will suggest Warrington has enjoyed fortune and misfortune in broadly equal measure however he may feel. With more than a few quid stowed away, his faculties in tact, standing proudly before an adoring public following a heroic effort in the Championships rounds to avert defeat to Lopez may prove as generous an ending as boxing has left to offer.