Josh Warrington is a short price favourite for win number 30 on Saturday but Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse takes a jab at a value bet...
"33-year-old Takoucht may have lost three times but he has never been stopped"
Warrington targets the top two
British featherweight sensation Josh Warrington takes part in his 30th professional contest this weekend when making the latest defence of his IBF world title. The First Direct Arena in Leeds plays host and well-travelled French southpaw Sofiane Takoucht provides the opposition.
As well as the chance to move his record to a perfect 30 wins, Warrington will also be eager to put on a show that will help drive him towards a money-spinning super fight with one of the division's top names. Josh is currently ranked third in the world, behind Leo Santa Cruz and Gary Allen Russell Jr. An eye-catching performance is required.
Champion's impressive form
Josh Warrington's recent form makes him one of the most exciting fighters in the world at the minute. The 28-year-old Yorkshireman announced his talents to the wider boxing public when upsetting the odds to beat former world champion Lee Selby on a split decision at Elland Road last spring. That result rated as a real shock for the majority of fight fans, but it came as no surprise to members of Team Warrington who always believed in their man's talents.
Next up was Carl Frampton and Warrington again came good on the scorecards, beating the popular Northern Irishman on a unanimous decision at the Manchester Arena in December. A flood of new names were racing to join The Leeds Warrior fan club and they were delighted to see the champion come out of a tricky defence against Kid Galahad with his reputation intact. Another split decision win in June, the judges scored it 116-113, 113-115, 116-112 in Josh's favour.
It's difficult not to appreciate what Warrington has done over the course of the last two seasons. Casual followers of the sport may believe he exploded onto the scene but, in reality, his arrival was timed to perfection.
Does Sofiane Takoucht match up with the likes of Selby, Frampton and Galahad? Betfair punters don't think so and have win number 30 priced at [1.03]. That pushes punters into the specials market where they'll find another points win at 5/4, a rare KO chalked up as a 4/7 play.
Challenger no pushover
Challenger Sofiane Takoucht arrives in the UK from his Ardennes base with a CV showing 35 wins against three defeats and one draw. He is much the more experienced fighter of the two, having been involved in 10 more pro outings, contesting 15 more rounds. Will that make the difference on Saturday night? Perhaps not, but it does mean he can deal with most of what the home crowd throws his way and will remain focused on the job at hand.
Thirty-three-year-old Takoucht may have lost three times but he has never been stopped and the thinking here is he will push the champion all the way to the finish line. The man they call Baby Face's most recent defeat came against Belgian Alexander Miskirtchian in 2014, dropping a majority decision on that occasion. In his eight fights since, Sofiane has reeled off eight wins, seven of those coming on points. The spare can be ignored as it came against a novice opponent with a 5-1-5 record.
The challenger earned his shot with a comfortable points win against Spaniard Yesner Talavera over eight rounds in June. The betting suggests this will be a wasted trip for Sofiane Takouchta and there's a heavyweight [34.0] available on the Exchange about an upset win and the belts heading back to France. That's an attractive price, of course, but it's unlikely to see too much attention. Takoucht's quote in the fight winner market means it's unnecessary to push your luck any further by playing the method of victory.
Takoucht difficult to budge
It would be unfair to dismiss Sofiane Takoucht but it is fair to say he is some way below the level of Selby, Frampton, Galahad and, of course, Warrington. This looks to be a step back for the champion and rates as an excellent opportunity to defend his title in front of a sell-out audience and collect his 30th win as a prize fighter.
We can't touch Warrington at his fight winner price as it's just too short and offers no excitement. We are, however, happy to go into the specials list where we'll take a punt on Warrington winning on a decision which is available at 5/4 on the Betfair Sportsbook. Sofiane Takoucht may be out of his depth but he's a proud warrior and has already shown he's difficult to budge.