FROM the moment Josh Warrington stepped into First Direct Arena on Saturday night, flanked by Rhinos stars Jamie Peacock and Jamie Jones Buchanan, the roar of the 10,000-strong crowd told the boxer the city was right behind him.
The atmosphere built steadily throughout the undercard fights before the crowd were whipped into a frenzy with a raucous rendition of Sweet Caroline.
Stepping out to the sounds of Leeds United anthem Marching on Together, and then the city’s own Kaiser Chiefs favourite I Predict A Riot, showed exactly why the 24-year-old has become so well known for his ringwalks.
The dental technician grew up in east Leeds, and now lives near Great Preston - so there was no greater choice of location to defend his Commonwealth and WBC international featherweight titles than his home town.
Following the fight, which Josh won by unanimous points victory, Josh told the YEP: “I can’t thank every single fan who bought a ticket enough.
“They sang from the first bell to the last and they deserve the big world title shot and that is the road we are on now.
“I don’t know if there is another fighter in the country who boxes in front of 10,000 nutters shouting your name and I’ve got to learn to deal with that and control my emotions and you only learn that through experience.”
Among the boxing stars ringside were Carl Froch and Tyson Fury, who challenges for the World Heavyweight title on October 24.
Matchroom Sports promotor Eddie Hearn said: “When Josh is walking out and you have a couple of thousand people with their shirts off, swinging them round their heads, you don’t see that in boxing.
“It’s a real Cinderella story. Josh started on small hall shows selling 100 tickets and boxing in front of four or five hundred and now the Josh Warrington, Leeds Warrior brand is really starting to gather pace and he is a real ambassador for the city.
“The support is second to none and there’s nothing like this is any city we go to.”