JOSH WARRINGTON’S hopes of a Leeds homecoming have been scuppered after Headingley Stadium was refused a licence to stage it.
The former IBF world featherweight champion, 30, suffered the first defeat of his career when he was knocked out by 30/1 underdog Mauricio Lara in February at Wembley Arena.
He was due to have his shot at revenge against the Mexican at the home of Leeds Rhinos in his hometown in September – promising to retire if he could not avenge that brutal loss two months ago.
Now those hopes look to be scuppered as plans for the stadium’s rugby field to host two boxing or wrestling events each year have been unanimously rejected by the city’s council.
Warrington’s promoter Eddie Hearn had previously announced the rematch between the 30-1 star and Lara would take place on September 4 at the stadium.
But Leeds Rhinos boss Gary Hetherington said the decision was ‘a shock’ after receiving the news earlier.
He said: “So much work has gone on behind the scenes to bring the Warrington rematch back to Leeds and I suspect Eddie Hearn may now look to take the fight to another city.
“I know Josh will be very disappointed, too.”
The Rhinos and Yorkshire CCC recently invested £46m towards the redevelopment of the ground with their business plan relying on attracting major events.
If it had been given the green light by council chiefs the famous stadium, which hosts both rugby and cricket, was expected to have crowds of up to 25,000.
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Explaining the decision to reject the plans, councillor John Illingworth said 25,000 fans was ‘a lot of people’ and there were fears they would ‘take over’ in a residential area late at night when people were asleep and public transport would no longer be running.
He said: “The late night finish certainly is a problem.
“If they finished the same time as a rugby match, I don’t think there’d be the same issues.
“We are all keen to see Rhinos doing well. It is a problem for them if they’ve got expensive facilities standing idle.”
Rhinos chief Hetherington said the club would now consider the ramifications of the decision before their next move.