IBF world featherweight champion returns to action on Saturday night when he makes the first defence of his title against Mexico’s Luis Alberto Lopez live on DAZN (excluding Australia and New Zealand).
Warrington is a unique fighter when it comes to his journey from small hall shows to headlining arenas. While there are other fighters who have amassed a following using this route, none have been quite as successful as ‘The Leeds Warrior’.
This experience has toughened up the 32-year-old and made him realise talent is not enough when it comes to being successful. You have to work hard inside and outside the gym, sell your tickets and make a name for yourself. Warrington’s style inside the ring is also a fan-friendly one, and that has played a part in increasing his popularity both across Leeds and the rest of the UK.
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Last year however was a frustrating one for Warrington, but despite the loss and draw to Mauricio Lara, he always kept the positive mindset which is required to go all the way. Warrington clearly understands that there can be setbacks, this is sport after all, but whenever there was a bump in the road, he would always be back in the gym and find the determination to work his way back to the top.
But now Warrington is set for another tough test on Saturday night when he comes up against Luis Alberto Lopez who could be one of boxing’s best kept secrets.
Lopez made easy work of Isaac Lowe last year, despatching a fighter who arrived in the ring with a huge amount of respect from those within the industry with a brutal body shot in the seventh to end the contest.
He will now be looking to do something similar against Warrington on his home turf. Lopez can punch with both hands and after speaking with Rich Farnan, a member of Lopez’s training team, he believes the Mexican is the real deal and could cause a huge upset.
There are flaws to Lopez’s style. He has been beaten a couple of times and has a tendency to come tall in fights, exposing his chin and allowing himself to get caught with a right hand over the jab.
Warrington will have to be the aggressor to expose this opening. It's the way he likes to fight. The defending champion will have to be on the front foot, look to outwork Lopez, but stay switched on. Warrington cannot afford to get complacent or greedy, however. He will need to establish that double jab and use that to throw the right hand.
Variation is another quality Warrington possesses, but his left hook could be a cause for concern. When throwing this particular punch, Warrington can sometimes drop his right hand, and this could play into the hands of Lopez who has a powerful left hand, therefore Warrington will need to keep his right hand tucked up in order to avoid any sticky moments during the fight.
If Lopez was going to draw some inspiration from Lara’s success over ‘The Leeds Warrior’ last year, it’s to mix fire with fire and go toe-to-toe with the IBF world featherweight champion. This can be a dangerous tactic. It’s something that Kiko Martinez looked to implement earlier this year and came unstuck.
There is no doubt Lopez can get caught and I don’t feel like he can outbox Warrington, but he could possibly outfire the IBF title holder. Warrington’s power however should not be underestimated, despite only having eight knockouts on his 31-1-1 record, he is someone who can pack a punch and it’s something that former world multi-weight world champion Carl Frampton recognised when the pair fought in 2018.
If Warrington does indeed get past Lopez in front of his home faithful on Saturday night, there are going to be two options for what’s next: a unification fight or that much desired trip to the United States.
Warrington has already ticked a lot of boxes in his career, but straight away my guts says a unification fight with WBA champion Leigh Wood which would be huge in this country.
Whether the fight takes place in Leeds or Nottingham and knowing what the atmosphere was like for Leigh Wood vs. Michael Conlan earlier this year, in what was one of my highlights of the 2022 boxing calendar, I would lean towards an all-British unification fight in what could be a huge spectacle.