Josh Warrington is tired of waiting for a world title unification fight, so he raced to a two-round win over Sofiane Takoucht on Saturday that he hopes will make things happen.
The IBF world featherweight champion made a successful third defense of his belt in front of his home-city supporters at the Leeds First Direct Arena in Leeds, England, to keep him in the hunt for bigger fights and paydays.
Warrington forced two counts before the fight was stopped after he battered Takoucht in the second round for a much-needed knockout result. Warrington came into the fight with the third-lowest knockout percentage for a current champion (21%). His previous earliest stoppage was a fourth-round TKO almost five years ago to the day (Oct. 4, 2014). But this fight puts the other champions on alert in the division, and arguably makes him No. 1 after other champions have recently quit the division.
Warrington can now move on to what he hopes will be a world title unification clash, which is most likely to be against the WBA "regular" titleholder Can Xu (17-2, 3 KOs), 25, of China, or WBC champion Gary Russell Jr. (30-1, 18 KOs), 31, of the United States.
Warrington (30-0, 7 KOs), 28, from Leeds, had hoped to fight Oscar Valdez in a title unification fight after outpointing English and Yorkshire rival Kid Galahad via a split decision in June.
But the fight never happened as Valdez vacated the belt in August to move up a weight class, and Mexico's Leo Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KOs), the WBA champion, is now also moving up to junior lightweight for his next fight.
"It was nothing personal, but I think I took my frustration on not getting a unification fight on him tonight," Warrington said.
"I've made it very clear I want unification fights.
"Valdez and Santa Cruz have moved on. I'm keeping my options open. Gary Russell Jr. is still knocking about. If Can Xu wants the fight, here I am."
Warrington's promoter, Frank Warren, said he hopes to deliver a world title unification fight against Xu, who defends his title against American Manny Robles III on Nov. 23.
"We keep our fingers crossed that [fight against Xu] comes over the line," Warren said.
"Both of them [Valdez and Santa Cruz] have avoided him. He brings finance to the table."
Warren will try to bring the fight to Elland Road, a soccer stadium in Leeds, in spring or summer next year.
French southpaw Takoucht (35-4-1, 13 KOs), 33, suffered terrible punishment in the second round and the fight finished with him being spun around by a punch before referee Bob Williams stopped it. Warrington first caught Takoucht flush with a right on the ropes for the first of two counts, then landed a left and right to the head.
Warrington was not able to shine against Galahad like he did in his points wins over former world featherweight champions Carl Frampton and Lee Selby. But he showed against Takoucht he does not have a problem facing southpaws.
"Last fight [against Galahad] was a wake-up all and I've worked on southpaws," Warrington said.
On the undercard, Zelfa Barrett broke Jordan McCorry's stubborn resistance with a right uppercut in the ninth round.
It was an impressive display from light-footed Barrett (23-1, 14 KOs), who showed off his array of skills and forced three knockdowns in a first defense of his Commonwealth junior lightweight title. McCorry (18-7-1, 4 KOs), from Glasgow, Scotland, was dropped by a wicked left to the body in the third, but mustered a spirited response in the fourth. McCorry was brave throughout, and came back firing again after being put down by a combination to the head and body in the eighth.
But the quality came from Barrett, who landed the decisive blow in the ninth to leave McCorry kneeling on the canvas when the fight was stopped.
Lyndon Arthur, like Barrett from Manchester, lifted the vacant Commonwealth light heavyweight title via a unanimous decision (115-112, 117-110, 117-11) over Ghana's Emmanuel Anim in a seesaw scrap. Arthur (16-0, 12 KOs) floored Anim (14-3-1, 12 KOs) in the fourth, but had some rocky moments himself such as in the eighth round.