Josh Warrington has warned the rest of the featherweight division he believes he can get even better despite hitting new heights in 2018.
Leeds fighter Warrington defied the odds twice last year, dethroning IBF champion Lee Selby at Elland Road in May before successfully defending his title by out-pointing Carl Frampton in a thriller last month.
Yet the unbeaten 28-year-old – who prevailed against Frampton despite suffering a hand injury – believes there is still room for improvement as he aims to test himself in a unification contest.
Leo Santa Cruz and Oscar Valdez, the WBA and WBO champions respectively, are targets for Warrington, who reckons facing either of the duo could force him to “bring something special” to the ring.
“I think I’m constantly learning,” he told Omnisport at the launch for the new Super League season at Old Trafford. “I’ll take things from the last fight and I think this next two or three years will be the best you’ve seen from Josh Warrington.
“Nobody thought I could top the Selby performance, but I did in Manchester with Carl, and a name like Carl, a pound-for-pound great.
“If I’m fighting the likes of Santa Cruz or Valdez, that’s when I’ve got to bring something special out of the locker. And I do think there’s still a bit more to come.
“I’ve shown it in the gym and I’m still waiting for that night where I’m really desperate and I’ve got to bring it.
“The last couple of fights I’ve been getting into the ninth, 10th round, but I’m in front, I’m winning the fight, I can see the finishing line.
“I’m still waiting for that one where it’s like, ‘f***ing hell, I’m chasing it now. Where is it? What am I going to bring to the table now?’ But all in good time.”
Warrington has enjoyed a break since beating Frampton by unanimous decision in Manchester, giving his hand time to recover while also doing a spot of DIY, including getting to grips with some flat-pack furniture after moving into a new house – but reckons he will be ready to return to action in May.
Whether he gets to face Santa Cruz or Valdez next remains to be seen – purse bids for another domestic clash, against mandatory challenger Kid Galahad, were postponed until February 5 – but he once again confirmed his intention to box in the United States in 2019.
Unsurprisingly, New York or Las Vegas are his preferred destinations, having had a taste of the atmosphere at the latter when ringside for Frampton’s second bout with Santa Cruz at the MGM Grand.
“I’d like to [fight in the US] this year. It’s a goal of mine now to go Stateside. Madison Square Garden or Vegas, it’s mouthwatering,” Warrington added.
“I was over there two years ago watching Carl fight Santa Cruz in the rematch and I thought to myself then, ‘I tell you what, I’d love to be here’.
“They really do promote the fights over there; seeing the big billboards and the buses, even the casinos with the blackjack tables and it’s all over there.
“I thought that’s where I want to be, but it’s only by winning the fights that we can make it happen. Now it’s within touching distance.”