MANCHESTER, England — Josh Warrington declared his intent to fight in the United States in 2019 after his unanimous decision win over Carl Frampton on Saturday.
Warrington (28-0, 6 KOs) made a first defense of his IBF world featherweight title with scores of 116-113, 116-112 and 116-112.
Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs), the WBA champion, and Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19 KOs), the WBO titleholder, both from Mexico, are Warrington’s targets next year after his relentless pressure fighting overcame Frampton in a ferocious battle at Manchester Arena.
Warrington has never boxed in the U.S. but experienced the fight capital, Las Vegas, when he went to see Frampton lose the WBA belt to Santa Cruz there in January 2017.
“I’m a world champion and I want to fight the best,” Warrington said at a news conference Saturday night. “I don’t want steady paydays. I want to test myself and keep going. It’s the momentum that keeps us going.”
Warrington also said the plan is to fight in Las Vegas in 2019.
“Next year we will take the boys stateside, to Vegas,” said Warrington. “I watched Carl box Santa Cruz in Las Vegas in 2017 and that’s what I want. I want to do that next.”
And about his next opponent, Warrington has no preference.
“They [other world champions] are all brilliant fighters and any one of them would do,” he said. “Beating Carl Frampton and Lee Selby in the same year — people are finally going to start to take notice of me.”
Valdez returns to the ring after nearly a year out when he boxes Carmine Tommasone (19-0, 5 KOs) on ESPN on Feb. 2, while Santa Cruz — No. 1 in ESPN’s latest featherweight rankings — defends his belt against Miguel Flores on Feb. 16.
Warrington, 28, from Leeds, celebrated victory with a cheeseburger and a pint of Guinness after paying tribute to Frampton, who hinted afterward he would consider retirement.
“Carl is a tough, tough man,” he said. “I had him hurt but he just kept on coming. I was cautious at time because he could pull a big shot from nowhere. I’m no knockout artist like Naseem Hamed but I’ve got power to get respect of all the world champions.
“I felt I was controlling the fight and in the second half of rounds I was stronger. When we had a clinch and a bit of a wrestle I felt like I was the stronger man. We keep going against the odds and proving people wrong.”
Boxing Day came four days early for British fight fans because as well as Warrington-Frampton in Manchester, heavyweights Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora clashed at a separate show in London.
Promoter Frank Warren was sure his event was the highlight.
“I’ve been involved in boxing 40 years but that for me is the best title fight I’ve seen in a British ring,” Warren said. “They were two superb athletes and the manner it was fought and the tempo was tremendous.”
Warren is convinced Warrington is a threat to the likes of Santa Cruz, Valdez and American Gary Russell Jr., the WBC champion.
“When I first signed Josh, people were saying he wasn’t going anywhere but I really fancied him,” Warren said. “I think he’s the best featherweight in the world. I fancied him to beat Santa Cruz and Valdez. He has unbelievable work rate on him.”