Boxing: Warrington’s got the world title in his sights

Josh Warrington.
Josh Warrington.
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A world champion prediction by boxer Josh Warrington’s class-mate is on the brink of becoming a reality. Lee Sobot reports.

Josh Warrington can still remember one prediction for him aged 16 at John Smeaton Academy.

Asked where their class-mates would be in 10 years’ time, Warrington was tipped to be heavyweight champion of the world.

His class colleague got the weight wrong but that aside that ‘wild’ 2006 prediction might not be so wide of the mark.

Warrington, 24, is counting down the days to his first fight of 2015 after a whirlwind 2014 that transformed the Leeds athlete’s life and boxing career.

The former Victoria Primary School star ended 2013 as the newly-crowned Commonwealth featherweight champion with his defeat of Samir Mouneimne, adding a second belt to his English featherweight crown.

One year on, Warrington had added the British and European belts to his armoury by defeating Martin Lindsay and Davide Dieli respectively, and at this rate a shot at the WBC world crown held by Jhonny Gonzalez will be next.

Warrington acknowledges he is not quite at that level just yet but if he beats Dennis Tubieron in a WBC International featherweight title fight at First Direct Arena on April 11 then Gonzalez might just come knocking on his door.

The eagerly-awaited Tubieron fight is an official eliminator for the WBC world featherweight title after all.

Warrington, though, is first preparing for his first fight on foreign soil in Germany later this month – and the Leeds ace might allow himself a wry smile when recalling his class-mate’s prediction of 2006.

Warrington told the YEP exclusively: “It’s quite funny because when I left high school we did a bit of a report where people in our form put where we would be in 10 years’ time.

“Somebody put that I would be the heavyweight champion of the world. Not quite heavyweight but maybe champion of the world. “For me, when I started out it was always the British title – that was always the one for me and I never looked past that and that’s what I always aspired to be, British champion.

“Picking that up so early on in the year, I said to myself I am going to have to set myself some more goals as I have picked this up and, not blowing smoke up my backside, but I did it with a bit of ease and I’m only 24.

“I still have so much more to give. The opportunity for the European came up and we took that and did that so now world titles – it’s within touching distance. We are making new ground again but I never thought I would get to this stage.”

Eight and a half years on from leaving John Smeaton Academy, Warrington’s impeccable professional record stands at 19 wins from 19 fights with three achieved by knock-outs.

Every single bout has been on British soil, until now, with Warrington set to fight in Berlin on Saturday, February 21 on the undercard for Arthur Abraham’s world title rematch with Paul Smith.

Down-to-earth Warrington has two aims for his upcoming European adventure – coming through his fight unscathed whilst also navigating the German language barrier.

Warrington laughed: “My German’s not too clever and I can’t even speak English hardly so I’m not going to be too clever with German. But it’s a funny one really because obviously the bigger fight on paper is the one in Leeds.

“The Berlin one that is coming beforehand is to give us a bit of international experience and have an overseas test and it’s one of them where I can’t look past Berlin and I can’t look towards Leeds because if anything was to go wrong in Berlin then Leeds wouldn’t happen.

“I’ve got to really stay focused and train hard but try not to overdo it. I’m at a bit of a crossroads really but I’m looking forward to going out there and it’s nice because I have never boxed abroad.

“It’s on a massive card and it will be an enjoyable experience.”

The German assignment comes seven weeks before Warrington’s First Direct Arena date and it is hoped the interim period will give Warrington and long-term girlfriend Natasha the chance to finally move into their recently purchased new home together in Garforth.

The duo are currently living with Natasha’s parents on the Rookwood estate amidst a whirlwind period in both of their lives.

Indeed, Warrington admits that such has been the magnitude of his boxing rise up the ranks that his well-documented day job as a dental technician for Adel-based Beever Dental has been placed on hold.

“After the Davide Dieli fight we had a mental run for media obligations and we were travelling all over the country,” said Warrington. “I was down in London about five times in a week – it was crazy – and I didn’t end up going back to work until the beginning of November.

“Then I’ve had to be off since around Christmas with these two fights being announced as I’ve just had to get back into camp, but work have been so supportive in letting me have the time off and be able to train. I’ve just had to put it on the back burner for a bit and I can’t thank them enough. I couldn’t do it without them. The gaffer, Phil Reddington, always says, ‘Josh, do what you have to do.’ He says your brushes and your teeth making will always be here for you after. I’m very fortunate.”

Fortune, though, favours the brave, and the countdown is on to Warrington’s 2015 debut in two weekends’ time. In the meantime the Leeds ace made a guest appearance on stage as First Direct Arena hosted the Premier League Darts this week, and passionate Leeds fan Warrington is also attempting to keep tabs on the never dull matters at Elland Road.

“I can’t keep up with Leeds these days!” admitted Warrington “With training and what not I try and get updates as much as possible but every time I check Twitter, there’s a new story come out!”

But Warrington is fast becoming one of their most famous supporters, and the boxing ace insists getting the team he supports back into the Premier League would mean almost as much as becoming world champion. Almost that is. Asked which he would prefer, Warrington agonised: “I don’t know there, I really don’t!

“But I think it would have to be world champion.

“That would be the icing on the cake winning a world title now. We’ve won all the titles you can win in boxing – British, Commonwealth, European – and the world title would be the icing on the cake. Not bad for a lad from LS9.”