NOWHERE TO HIDE
Leeds boxer Josh Warrington is preparing for the biggest fight of his life. Alun Palmer reports on how he is getting ready for his attempt to win a world title in May at his beloved Elland Road.
Just a few years ago Josh Warrington was living something of a Jekyll and Hyde existence.
By day, he worked as a dental technician at a laboratory in Adel, Leeds.
By night he was a fearsome boxer with a steely determination to succeed.
“They joke and say I make teeth in the day time and knock them out at night,” Warrington said at the time.
When he turned professional in 2009 he had one main ambition – to become British champion.
Five years later he had accomplished his dream and he then set his sights on headlining Leeds Arena. That, too, was quickly realised.
But on May 19th this year his biggest dream will come to pass – fighting for a world title at Elland Road, home to his beloved Leeds United.
He faces Lee Selby for the IBF featherweight crown in an eagerly awaited bout that could bring boxing glory
back to Yorkshire. “I should be jumping about on tables and shouting but I am calm,” he says. “I think this is meant to be.“Ever since we have been talking about a world title fight we have talked of fighting at Elland Road, I have
dreamt of it.
“Any time I have been in the stands watching the team I have visualised myself walking out with a pair of boxing gloves. It has all led to this moment. I am meant to win that world title.
“The fans have played a part in the Leeds Arena. But nowhere can touch Elland Road when it’s full, especially when they see one of their own doing well, it can be very intimidating.
“I feel like destiny is playing out in front of me. I won the European title when I was 23 and I had so much more to give. I thought I am years away from my peak and I am only going to improve, I am only going to get better.”
Warrington, 27, and his opponent, the 31-year-old Welshman Selby have traded the ritual insults before the fight. But the Leeds fighter admits the bad blood is not fake.
“People have asked if it is genuine or just about the fight, he says. “But it is genuine for me. There have been a lot of bad words said, we are Leeds folk and we don’t
IT HAS ALL LED TO THIS
MOMENT, I AM MEANT TO
WIN THAT WORLD TITLE
take that too lightly. If someone says something about you, you do want to confront them.
“I have had a lot of bad stick from him and his team over the years. It started as healthy rivalry but now it is nasty and personal. For him to slate my fans, the people who have paid hard earned money to come out and support me, is not on – there’ll be nowhere to hide for him at Elland Road.”
Away from the ring, Warrington is equally as focused on his other great love, his wife Natasha, who he married two years ago just three weeks after beating Irishman Patrick Hyland at Leeds Arena.
Talking about Natasha he said: “She has been with me through thick and thin and always been there my whole career.
“We’ve been through so much together since a young age so after that fight it was something I definitely needed to do.
“We had a little holiday booked in Mexico and I waited until the last day when I took her out on a surprise cruise overlooking the Mexican coast.
“There seemed to be about another 30-odd American couples on the same cruise and I jumped up on the deck of the ship and got down on one knee and got all gushy on the microphone!
“I’d organised it with the captain so he knew – there was a trumpet player and a saxophonist playing along but he said ‘Hang on a minute, we’ve got someone here who wants to say something to his special lady’ and handed me the microphone.
“I never thought I would ever get nervous doing something like that but I tell you what, I had a few butterflies going on.
“I knew she was going to say ‘yes’ but I wanted to do everything right as you only get to do it once don’t you?”
Talking about weddings, just hours before his fight, Prince Harry will marry American actress Meghan Markle, a curious warm up to what is set to be a fierce battle.
“On May 19th I know a few things,” he jokes. “There’s going to be a royal wedding, the FA Cup final and Leeds is going to have its first world boxing champion.”.