By Shaun Brown
Josh Warrington 17-0 (2) has quickly turned into one of British boxing’s surprise packages over the last six months. The 23 year old had been defending his English Featherweight title around smaller venues from the West Midlands to his home city of Leeds before an opportunity came along that has taken him to new heights.
The fighter/dental technician made his live televised debut on Sky Sports last November before beating Samir Mouneimne TKO12 to capture the vacant Commonwealth Featherweight title in Hull. And only last month, Warrington would end the career of Rendall Munroe in the first defence of his newly acquired belt. It’s been sudden and the time has flown by but he feels the rewards are overdue.
“It actually feels like it’s been a bit of a long time coming,” Warrington told BoxingScene.
“I’ve been professional for five years now and always mixed with decent calibre in sparring and in gyms and what not. Right from the early days till now. Some years in my pro career have been fairly quiet compared to how busy some other fighters get. Now it’s all coming and it’s coming at the right time.”
Back in front of the Sky Sports cameras at the First Direct Arena in Leeds tonight, Warrington will defend his Commonwealth title and look to add the vacant British belt when he squares off against Northern Ireland’s Martin Lindsay 21-2 (8). A fighter who won that particular Lonsdale title back in 2009 when beating Paul Appleby in a domestic classic. Warrington is under no illusions as to how hard a fight he has against the 32 year old but the greater the success, the greater the challenge.
“I’m expecting a tough Martin Lindsay. All fights at this level are tough especially over the 12 round distance. All fighters are fit and ready to do 12 especially when belts are on the line and there’s the chance to get yourself back in the limelight. They’ll give it their all. There’s no easy fights, no walkovers. Even though he’s been inactive (Lindsay has had two fights in 15 months) I don’t think it’ll affect how he’ll treat this fight. He’s been in with some top names, he’s a tough fighter and he’ll be there for the full 12. I’ve just got to treat that last fight [against Munroe] as a bit of a training session, which sounds daft, but that’s how I’ve got to look at it now.”
Munroe, who had previously lost to the world ranked Lee Selby, had been showing signs of slowing down and at 33 had ultimately left his best days behind him. But the former English, Commonwealth and European super bantamweight champion, as well as world title challenger to Toshiaki Nishikoa’s WBC title in 2010 was rightly seen as a significant step-up in class for Warrington. After seven rounds of rather one-sided action, Munroe retired on his stool. His career drew to a sad close afterwards with the veteran clearly upset when interviewed afterwards by Sky’s Ed Robinson. For Warrington, it was a case of mixed emotions.
“I felt for a fella who I’d watched over the years coming through as a novice pro,” he explained.
“It’s never nice to see someone break down like that. He’s a proud grown man, he’s achieved a lot in the sport and I felt for him a little bit. I spoke to him in the dressing room afterwards and he was okay and gave me some kind words of encouragement, a bit of advice and we left it at that.”
Warrington puts his recent success down to hard work and taking his opportunities. He’s paid his dues and is ready to enjoy the glory that come his way from now on. And when he looked back, it seems like 2012 was a significant turning point in his career. A frustrating period eventually gave him a UD10 win over Chris Male which won him the vacant English featherweight title. Patience indeed had proven to be a virtue.
“Fighters get a little bit impatient,” mused Warrington. “They maybe move up or down a weight and don’t be patient and wait. Sometimes you gotta do that till your opportunities come up. You’ve just got to keep at it and keep focused and when English title shot came up I were ready to go. It was short notice, we went over and won that. Same with Commonwealth really. I was scheduled to defend my English at home, which I did, and then got told ‘There’s a shot at Commonwealth if you want it’ and I said ‘We’ll take it in the lads’ backyard’. And it paid off, obviously.”
Now comes the pressure of representing Leeds on the British boxing map. A city that has produced the likes of Henry Wharton, Crawford Ashley, Carl Johanneson and Nicola Adams MBE has suffered in silence but Warrington aims to change all of that and is happy to lead the charge.
“I’m passionate about Leeds, I love the city and everything about it,” he declared.
“Boxing has been a bit empty in the city for a long time. We’ve got our neighbours like Sheffield where boxing has been forever and Manchester keep producing good fighters. Leeds has been a bit quiet. I grew up watching Carl Johannesson fights. Since then it’s been a bit of an empty rut. So I’m hoping that myself and a few good amateurs who are looking to turn pro in the next couple of years can put Leeds back where it should be. I don’t mind flying the flag, I’ll do it with pride.”
Please send news and views to [email protected] or @shaun_brown on Twitter.