Josh Warrington’s fear of early retirement spurred him to important win – Eddie Hearn

Eddie Hearn believes the fear of early retirement spurred new world champion Josh Warrington into the most important win of his career.

Warrington produced a devastating display in his home city of Leeds on Saturday night to regain the IBF featherweight title by stopping Spain’s Kiko Martinez in the seventh round.

It would have been a long road back for Warrington had he lost again after slipping to a shock first career defeat to Mauricio Lara in February last year, soon after he had vacated the title.

The 31-year-old ‘Leeds Warrior’ first won the IBF crown by beating Lee Selby on points at Elland Road in 2018 and is now a two-time world champion.

Promoter Hearn, Matchroom Sport chairman, said: “It’s hard to say it was the biggest night of his career because obviously the Selby win at Elland Road was a big night.

“But this was the most important win of his career because they just asked him in there, ‘would you have retired if you had lost?’ and he was like, ‘I don’t know’.

“When you’re going back and offering someone a quarter of the money to have a rebuild fight, do you really want to do that?

Warrington sent Martinez to the canvas in the first round with a crushing right hook (Martin Rickett/PA)

(PA Wire)

“I think he put a lot of pressure on himself in the build-up to that fight. He trained really well.

“It was probably one of the best performances of his career, which is great at this stage of his career because there was a lot of people questioning what he had left.”

Warrington had slipped down the pecking order after his previous two fights in 2021, which saw him knocked out by Mexico’s Lara before their rematch ended in a technical draw.

At a partisan First Direct Arena on Saturday, the Yorkshireman made a whirlwind start, sending Martinez to the canvas with a right hook to the chin and opening up a cut above the Spaniard’s left eye in the first round.

Martinez somehow survived the early onslaught and edged back into the fight, but the 36-year-old was bludgeoned to a standstill in the seventh and the referee stepped in to halt the match.

Warrington did not come through a gruelling contest unscathed and it was later confirmed he had broken his jaw.

Hearn said: “Other than that, he’s feeling great. He’s emotional, but he’s also in a lot of pain. He’s relieved I think.

I knew he was razor sharp because I knew he had trained with the fear of losing

Eddie Hearn

“You could see that in the ring. He never showed emotion like that, even when he beat Selby, I don’t think.

“It was the look of relief, joy, everything. I knew he was razor sharp because I knew he had trained with the fear of losing.”

Warrington is now in a position of strength to choose his next move, with unification fights against WBA champion Leigh Wood, WBC champion Mark Magsayo, WBA super-featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz and WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete all possibilities.

Josh Warrington (left) stopped Spain’s Kiko Martinez in the seventh round (Martin Rickett/PA)

(PA Wire)

The Yorkshireman’s trainer and father Sean O’Hagan told the PA news agency: “Once again to all the knockers. We keep doing it don’t we?

“We were written off tonight. A lot of people were doubting what Josh had left after the Lara loss and that we didn’t answer our questions and tick the boxes in the rematch.

“I think we did, just by accepting that rematch. We didn’t swerve him. The possibilities are endless now, we’ll have to sit down and discuss what’s next.

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