Josh Warrington clung on to his IBF featherweight title after a controversial split decision win over Kid Galahad in Leeds.
The home favourite gained the verdict by 116-112 and 116-113 on two of the judges’ scorecards with Howard Foster favouring the challenger by 115-113.
Galahad had largely frustrated Warrington through much of the contest and had appeared to land the cleaner if less powerful work.
But ultimately Warrington’s sheer will to win somehow saw him through, albeit in a fashion far removed from his previous epic triumphs over Lee Selby and Carl Frampton.
Like Warrington, Galahad had started the fight with an unbeaten record and the inevitable reputation that comes with being a product of the late Brendan Ingle’s Wincobank gym.
Galahad had spoken emotionally of his link with Ingle, who died last year, in the build-up to the fight, and the gym’s most famous disciple, Naseem Hamed, was present to cheer him on at ringside.
Hamed had wrested the same IBF title from American veteran Tom ‘Boom Boom’ Johnson in London in 2001 to extend a reign which would go down as one of the greatest in the history of the nine-stone division.
Respect for his achievements was in short supply when he rather ill-advisedly chose to address the First Direct Arena crowd prior to the main event, with staunch Warrington fans vocally questioning his current ability to boil down to his former weight.
There were signs that the champion was struggling to find his range in the opening stages of the contest, while Galahad, in contrast, was countering accurately enough to bloody Warrington’s nose near the end of the second.
Frustration was evident as the contest approached the halfway stage, with Galahad staunchly refusing to play into his opponent’s hands and wage war in the manner of Selby or Frampton before him.
The favourite had to wait until round five for his first moment of real success when a short right hand sparked a strong three-punch combination which temporarily knocked Galahad out of his rhythm.
The Sheffield boxer responded with a heavy left in the sixth and, for all Warrington’s intent, it remained the challenger who looked to boxing the cleaner and cleverer fight.
Galahad had questioned Warrington’s hunger before the fight and the Leeds man responded by piling on the pressure in the final stages.
A clean left uppercut in the 10th was followed by a wild assault early in the 11th. The majority of his shots may have gone astray but his sheer force of intent was ultimately what captured the judges’ eye.