Leeds hero Josh Warrington fights for the first time since July when he takes on former world champion Kiko Martinez in arguably the toughest bout of his career to date next month.
Warrington and Martinez will go toe to toe at Leeds Arena on May 13, with the British boxer touted as a strong favourite to continue his impressive unbeaten run and successfully defend his WBC International Featherweight title, which is on the line.
The 26-year-old has won all of his 26 fights to date – although only five of them have been via knockout – but he will be tested to the full by Martinez, who has an excellent pedigree.
Martinez held the IBF super-bantamweight title from 2013 to 2014 but he has struggled against British fighters in the past, having lost to both Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg previously.
Warrington is the big favourite with the bookies here – the best price on the current WBC International champion is 2/17 – but can Martinez pull off what would be a major shock?
A fantastic atmosphere is guaranteed at Leeds Arena, with Warrington a phenomenally popular fighter in the local area having built up a cult following over the last few years.
The Leeds Warrior has not fought for nine months so there will be question marks about whether or not he is slightly rusty, but he will certainly be raring to go in front of his home fans after so long out of the ring.
Former WBC world title challenger Patrick Hyland was stopped by Warrington at the same venue last time out, so the Leeds-born fighter will be keen to repeat the trick against Martinez.
The local flavour of this fight night is added to by the fact Yorkshire’s Nicola Adams is fighting on the undercard as the double Olympic hero continues to make her way in the professional ranks.
Past His Best?
Martinez has perhaps the most impressive record of any of the fighters Warrington has faced before, but it is arguable that the 31-year-old is now on the wane.
Despite winning four of his last six fights since losing to Quigg in Manchester in July 2015, Martinez has struggled when he has faced high-quality opposition, losing to talented Mexican Leo Santa Cruz when he fought for the WBA (Super) featherweight title last year.
Warrington is taking nothing for granted though, with Martinez’s tally of 26 knockouts in his career showing that the Spaniard should not be underestimated.
However, the fact Martinez can be backed at odds as large as 15/2 indicates the size of the task facing him at Leeds Arena on May 13.
The long absence of Warrington from the ring can be partly explained by his change of representation, having ditched Matchroom for Frank Warren towards the end of last year.
Warren has promised to book a number of big events for Warrington in his home city in the coming months, but first, he has to make sure he gets past the dangerous Martinez, who is one of the most powerful fighters in his class.
It bodes well for Warrington that he beat Rendall Munroe early in his professional career, a boxer who has twice won against Martinez, who tends to struggle on his visits to the UK.
Munroe beat Martinez twice, with both fights for the European super-bantamweight title, but Warrington came out on top when the pair met in Manchester for the Commonwealth Featherweight title in 2014.
Warrington is pegged as a possible future opponent for current IBF champion Lee Selby – and Martinez is the type of boxer he will have to outclass if he is to earn a big fight like that.
While Warrington should have enough in the tank to beat Martinez, the fight is likely to go all the way and
Warrington to win by decision is available to back at evens (1/1).