AUTHOR: davidstewart

STAR PREVIEW Sat: Kiko Martinez v Josh Warrington 2

Leigh Wood and Michael Conlan gave us a featherweight classic two weeks ago and attention now turns to another intriguing matchup in the 126lb division between IBF world champion Kiko Martinez and old foe Josh Warrington in Leeds. These men first met in 2017 with Warrington emerging victorious and at that point nobody would have imagined we would see a rematch five years later.

Josh Warrington has endured a very difficult couple of years since vacating this belt in 2019 and he is in the process of recovering his career. Warrington defended the belt three times before vacating in search for ‘bigger’ but he ran into Mexican Mauricio Lara and was knocked out viciously in February 2021. He rematched Lara and that fight was brought to an early end due to a cut but due to the strength of his promoter Eddie Hearn, he has landed himself an unexpected world title shot in his hometown.

Kiko Martinez being a world champion in 2022 is something nobody connected with the sport expected. The 36-year-old is a legend of the sport and the greatest boxer Spain has ever produced but with 55 professional fights under his belt, he is not the fighter he once was. His knockout victory over Kid Galahad to claim the belt in November 2021 was technically perfect but it was one of the biggest upsets of the year.

In truth, Martinez was brought over to Sheffield as an opponent for Galahad and he was never meant to win. He was getting beaten in that fight before landing a perfect shot. Martinez will claim the only thing that matters is a victory but the early rounds of that fight proved he is beatable at this stage of his career.

Martinez may no longer be the fighter he was but there is a solid argument that Josh Warrington has regressed also. The Leed’s favourite has been a professional for thirteen years and has built up a professional record of 30-1-1 (7KO). His career has been on a general upwards trajectory and during 2018-2019 he was widely regarded as the best featherweight on the plane before Lara dramatically derailed the train.

We have a scenario here where Warrington has landed the opportunity of a lifetime in front of his home crowd but both men are vulnerable and that’s what makes this such an interesting fight. However, Warrington has less miles on the clock than the defending champion and should have enough in the bank to once again be crowned IBF featherweight world champion.

Warrington will start as the (1/4) favourite to reclaim his crown and those odds are reflective of were both men are at in their respective careers. At 36, this may be the last time we see Kiko Martinez compete at this level and despite the fact he has only four stoppage defeats in 55 fights, his reflexes are not quite what they were. Warrington is desperate for a big performance to prove he is still a genuine threat at 126lb and he can make that statement with a stoppage victory here.

The Leed’s hero hits harder than his record suggests and a price of (11/4) for the challenger to win by KO/TKO is worth considering.

In the chief support, Maxi Hughes takes on Ryan Walsh with the IBO lightweight title on the line. It is a difficult fight to call this but both men have been terrific additions to British boxing over the years and deserve this fight on a big platform. Hughes is in the form of his career but Walsh, despite climbing a couple of divisions for this fight, will keep this one competitive throughout.

This card in Leeds is not the only action for fight fans to get excited about this weekend as cruiserweights Richard Riakporhe and Deion Jumah clash in London, live on Sky Sports. This fight has not had the same build up as Martinez vs Warrington but it is an exceptional piece of matchmaking and could turn out to be the fight of the weekend.

Riakporhe is 13-0 (9KO) and brings serious power to the ring this weekend but he is facing a fighter in Jumah who is one of the best kept secrets in British boxing and Riakporhe will have a difficult job getting close enough to hurt Jumah who is arguably the better boxer of the two.

Jumah is also a southpaw which will be a different proposition for Riakporhe who enters the ring as the (1/3) favourite. Interestingly, Jumah is priced as (5/2) outsider and that is an extremely tempting price for someone with his ability.

It would be no surprise here if Riakporhe continued his winning run but Jumah is a big price and he is worth taking a gamble on in what many in the industry would consider a 50/50 contest. Whoever wins this fight, they will become a genuine player at cruiserweight and it would be no surprise to see this contest steal all the headlines on Sunday morning.

BACK Josh Warrington by KO/TKO 1pt at 11/4 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Deion Jumah to win 1pt at 5/2 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

PROFIT/LOSS (MARCH 2022): LOSS -18.66 points
(Excluding ante-post recommendations CLICK HERE)