Josh Warrington revealed he is building up Mauricio Lara as a “monster” in his own mind as he knows defeat to the unheralded Mexican on Saturday night would take a wrecking ball to his ambitious plans.
Warrington recently vacated his IBF featherweight title after being informed a rematch against mandatory challenger Kid Galahad would have to take priority over a unification showdown against WBA ‘regular’ champion Can Xu.
The expectation is China’s Can will be next for Warrington, who also has his sights set on WBC titlist Gary Russell Jr and WBO belt holder Emanuel Navarrete, but the unbeaten Yorkshireman knows he must first avoid an upset.
He is 1-25 with many leading bookmakers to prevail in his first bout since October 2019 – when he beat Sofiane Takoucht inside two rounds – but Warrington knows Lara has nothing to lose at the SSE Arena, Wembley.
“This man has no pressure,” Warrington said. “He is full of Mexican pride. I’m a big fan of Mexican fighters and how they wear their hearts on their sleeves. He will bring it but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“He will bring it, which will tune me up nicely for the fights down the line. Make no mistake, I’m treating him like a monster because I can’t afford a slip-up.”
Lara has won 21 and lost two of his 24 professional outings, with one no-contest, although this will be only his second bout outside his native Mexico.
The 22-year-old has 14 stoppage wins on his ledger, which is more than Warrington (30-0, 7KOs) has accumulated.
There was only ever going to be one man to share the ring walk with me if restrictions would have allowed. I am honoured and extremely privileged to wear the Inspired by 7 logo on my shorts. @Rob7Burrow @leedsrhinos @mndassoc pic.twitter.com/47svlMNrBb
— Josh Warrington (@J_Warrington) February 12, 2021
While Warrington – who scaled 125.5lbs at Friday’s weigh-in, half a pound heavier than his opponent – is wary of Lara’s power, the Leeds fighter has backed his own brawn to bring a stoppage inside the 12-round distance.
“He’s got a better knockout ratio than I have,” Warrington added. “But can he do the 12 rounds as well as I can? Has he got as much experience? I don’t think he can. But that’s up to me to expose that.
“He’s got punch power but, if I’m not there to be hit, he’ll be hitting thin air.
“It won’t go past six rounds. I strongly believe that. The way I’ve been hitting with 16oz gloves on, when I then put the 8oz gloves on and see the gaps in his defence, I expect an early night.”
⚖️ @J_Warrington 🆚 Lara ⚖️
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) February 12, 2021
Warrington’s recent bouts have seen him accompanied to the ring by sporting heroes associated with his home city, including Leeds United captain Liam Cooper and ex-skipper Lucas Radebe.
His ring walk will be a little different for the first boxing card in Britain this year – with events banned until mid-February due to rising coronavirus cases – with Rob Burrow joining Warrington virtually.
Warrington has also had the number seven stitched on to his shorts in honour of the former Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain scrum-half, whose ongoing battle against Motor Neurone Disease (MND) has been well-chronicled.
Warrington added on Sky Sports: “He’s a massive admiration. Keep fighting and staying strong.”