World champion Josh Warrington is not underestimating Luis Alberto Lopez as he seeks a special last fight at Leeds Arena on Saturday night.
With unification bouts in sight, Warrington knows he can’t afford a mistake.
“It’s going to be a tough test. These fights are banana peel fights because people expect you to win,” he said.
Warrington will be looking to fight away from Leeds after Saturday but will be hoping to end the year on a high after a hugely disappointing 2021.
The Leeds Warrior vacated their IBF title in January last year before losing for the first time as a pro a month later when he was brutally arrested by Mauricio Lara.
A rematch with Lara soon followed, but the the fight ended in a draw following a head impact which prevented the Mexican from continuing.
Despite bouncing and beat martinez in impressive fashion earlier this year to regain the IBF title, Warrington admits he learned the hard way to misjudge an opponent.
“I won’t let this happen again. It’s the first time as a professional that I’ve done this,” admitted Warrington.
“I never turned off, but subconsciously I did. Being in the bubble, without fans, my attitude towards him [was wrong] and I paid the price.”
It was the first time Warrington had fought without their loyal fanbase as supporters were unable to attend due to the coronavirus pandemic. This has resulted in one of the biggest upsets in boxing of 2021.
Lopez, 29, steps into the ring against Warrington as an underdog but has an impressive 26 wins in his career, 15 of them by knockout.
The Mexican will be looking to emulate his compatriot Lara by beating Warrington – something the Yorkshireman is well aware of.
“He’s going to try to knock me out and he talks about him with a lot of confidence, but it’s up to me to crush that confidence,” added Warrington.
“But looking at his record, I don’t think he beat anyone with the type of caliber that I beat.
“That being said, I had the same mindset with Lara and he knocked me around the ring for five rounds in that first fight.
“I’ll be ready, focused and committed with this one. I’ll look to close the show early if I can.”
“I would be devastated if I didn’t have this opportunity”
The connection between Warrington and his fans is special, but could this be the last time he fights in Leeds?
In his last 15 fights, 12 of them have been in Leeds.
“I’m just one of them,” Warrington said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why they love me so much. They keep it as humble as possible.
“In terms of boxing, I always felt like I was looking at fighters from Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and other cities, but they never had fighters from Leeds.
“I’ve always been very grateful for what the city has given me. I just wanted to put Leeds on the map.”
Warrington won’t look past Lopez, but says he wants to repay the support he received from his loyal fans with a fight in America.
“I have so many people I know who have their passports on hold,” Warrington added. “They would like to see me fight in America.”
Warrington says he will feel aggrieved if he doesn’t get a chance to fight in America before ending his boxing career.
“I would be devastated if I didn’t have this opportunity. That’s what drives me,” he admitted.
A win over Lopez will leave Warrington with options – a domestic showdown against Leigh Wood is a possibility, as is a trilogy fight with Lara.
But Warrington called out the other belt holders in the featherweight division, with Emanuel Navarrete, Leo Santa Cruz and Rey Vargas all holding championship gold.
“I know there’s talk about Wood and Lara, but I’d love to fight one of the champions and go for that unification,” Warrington said.