On Saturday night, unbeaten Josh Warrington (24-0, 5 KO’s) returns from almost ten months out of the ring when he defends his WBC international featherweight title against Spain’s Kiko Martinez (36-7-1, 26 KO’s).
It’s said that absence makes the heart grow fonder and Warrington’s army of fans are once again preparing to pack out the First Direct Arena in Leeds and scream the local hero on towards a world title fight. Martinez is sure to provide Warrington with a tough test and viewers tuning in to the action on BT Sport should be guaranteed fireworks. Josh spoke to 32Red about this weekend’s fight. See the latest odds here.
“I remember watching Kiko Martinez a long time ago, right back to the days of him fighting Rendall Munroe. I used to be a bit of a fan of Rendall and he had two good scraps with Kiko. He disappeared from the scene over here for a while but has come back in recent years against Scott Quigg and twice against Carl Frampton. I think I remember watching him win the IBF super bantamweight world title a few years ago with a non-stop barnstorming display. He’s one of those fighters who has always been there or thereabouts and he gives anybody a tough fight.
“He’s never been disgraced and when he has lost he’s gone out showing heart and on his shield. It’s all or nothing with Kiko. He isn’t going to bow out with a points loss, he’s gonna try and knock you out and he’ll try and do that until every ounce of energy has gone out of his body.
“He had Scott Quigg worried in the first round and then Quigg caught him with a good uppercut and he gave Santa Cruz and Frampton hard nights work too.
“I’ve been out a long time and it’s been a bit frustrating as I had a bit of momentum going. Earlier last year I beat Hisashi Amagasa and Patrick Hyland who were both highly ranked and I thought I was going to finish the year with a big fight but it didn’t happen for whatever reason. After a period of inactivity like that you want to get back in there with a decent fighter. You want a good fight and an opponent who’ll make you train your bollocks off and give you a bit of a fear factor. Kiko certainly does that.
“I’ve read some comments from people saying that he’s over the hill but you never lose your punch power. That’s one of the last things to go from a fighter and if anything, he should be even more determined. He’s had a ten week camp for this and he knows that because I’m highly ranked by the governing bodies, beating me will shoot him right back into world title contention.
“I think you have to make your fights like Rocky films before you get a pat on the back these days. It’s funny how it works. In any other country in the world you get a pat on the back for doing well but here you seem to get the pats on the back on the way up and then when it’s time for glory, people want to see you get beaten or really pushed right to the limit before they give you a bit of credit. As you go through these levels and keep stepping up to challenge people and fight whoever is put in front of you, you get people saying you aren’t gonna beat this fella. Afterwards when you have beaten him, well, he was no good. That’s just part of the job and it’ll continue until I win a world title. Even then I’ll still have my doubters.
“I’m not even reaching my peak yet. You reach your peak at 26 or 27 onwards. I’ve only just turned 26 and I’ve still got years ahead of me. We don’t need to rush while things are going well but I think the way my career went at first was second to none. I think it’s the best way to do it. I got about 14 fights behind me before I went for my first title and I boxed away from home a lot. People don’t realise that I didn’t box at home until quite late on. I didn’t box imports, I boxed tough journeymen who wanted to fight the week after so they couldn’t afford to get stopped. You learn a lot from doing that and by the time the big title fights arrive and you’re against fighters who have blasted out twenty tomato cans, they can’t blast you out in the same way. You’ve laid your foundations where they haven’t.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day and I’ve come through the ranks pretty quickly. I was thinking about this just the other day and talking about it with my team. Within twelve months I’d gone from defending my English title to fighting at an arena in front of seven or eight thousand people for a European title. To get to where we have done in such a short space of time just doesn’t happen. To be selling arenas out when you haven’t even got a world title is a bit of a freak and there’s been a lot of expectancy put on my shoulders because of the following and the size of fanbase I’ve got. I’ve had to learn to deal with that. You don’t get taught that at school, it’s all been about gaining the experience.”