The Yorkshire Evening Post is flying the flag for its home city with a new campaign called Love Leeds. PAUL ROBINSON spoke to local sporting hero Josh Warrington about the place’s special qualities.
JOSH Warrington is, as you might expect, very much a man in demand.
The boxing champ is in the gym every other day as he prepares for a big fight announcement in the next couple of weeks.
He’s also busy with charity commitments – but was still happy to take time out when the Yorkshire Evening Post asked him to talk about his beloved home city of Leeds and what makes it so special.
And, as many an opponent has found to their cost in the ring, once the likeable 24-year-old starts he’s very difficult to stop.
He told the YEP: “Why do I think Leeds is a great place? It’s a mixture of things - but, for me, the people really stand out.
“The Leeds people are something else, they have a character all of their own.
“I’m not saying people from other cities don’t have that but there is just something about Leeds people that is special.”
Next up, as he waxes lyrical about Yorkshire’s unofficial capital, is a subject particularly close to Leeds United fan Josh’s heart.
“We’re a great sporting city,” he said. “We’re a one football team city and I think that sets us apart from places like Liverpool or Manchester or Sheffield.
“Leeds United have one of the best away followings in the country, everyone knows that. Rhinos games are always packed out.
“Then there’s people like the [triathlete] Brownlee brothers. What they have in common is the support they get from the city. We like getting behind one of our own.”
Josh, a dental technician by day, has personal experience of the backing that local heroes enjoy from their fellow Loiners.
More than 500 fans made the trip to Berlin to watch the man nicknamed the Leeds Warrior overpower Nicaraguan fighter Edwin Tellez in February.
And, in April, a sell-out 10,000-strong crowd generated an electric atmosphere at Leeds’s First Direct Arena as he saw off Filipino contender Dennis Tubieron to take the WBC International Featherweight title.
Mention of the arena sends Josh off on another tangent, namely the developments that are putting an upwardly-mobile slant on the city’s skyline.
He said: “The place is getting better and better, there are so many things being built. We’ve got a brilliant arena, we’ve got Trinity Leeds. I was reading the other day how we’re going to be one of the top shopping destinations when (£150m retail scheme) Victoria Gate opens.
“There’s the Grand Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse, three universities, fantastic parks and we are up there with the best when it comes to hosting big events.
“You only have to look at things like the Tour de Yorkshire and the Leeds West Indian Carnival. There’s the Leeds Festival as well.
“Whenever you tell someone you’re from Leeds, they know it immediately – even if the reaction quite often is ‘the football team’s not doing too clever at the moment’!
“Most people have been here for a night out or have relatives here or have done business here.
“Sometimes you forget how many big companies have headquarters in Leeds.”
Josh grew up in east Leeds, went to school in Cross Gates and today lives near Great Preston.
His determination to give something back to the city will be highlighted when he starts – and runs in – the Asda Foundation Leeds 10K race in July.
But will his loyalty to Leeds last forever? Is one of the hottest names on the country’s sporting scene tempted by the bright lights of London?
The answer comes back as quick as one of his lightning punches: “There is no way I’ll be moving away. I’d be lost!
“All my family and friends are here, I can’t imagine not having them around me. I’ll always have an LS postcode!”
There’s no doubt, then, that Josh is fiercely proud of the city he calls home. He does have one quibble to address, however – he wants other Leeds lads and lasses to be a little less backward about coming forward and praising their home town.
“Scousers are always talking up Liverpool and Mancunians are the same about Manchester,” he said.
“I think sometimes we could fly the flag for ourselves a little bit more.
“Maybe we’re too modest for our own good, which comes back to the special character that Leeds people have.”
* Josh asked the YEP for the chance to voice his thanks to Phil Reddington, his boss at Adel’s Beever Dental Laboratory, for allowing him to put his job on the backburner so he can follow his boxing dream.