Exclusive Interview – Josh Warrington reveals how he aims to work his way back to being top of the world again

IT IS not everyday that the heavyweight champion of the world gives you a phone call out of the blue – for Josh Warrington it was just the tonic he needed after his shock defeat to Mauricio Lara in February.

Saturday, 10th April 2021, 6:45 am
Updated Saturday, 10th April 2021, 6:53 am
TOP OF THE WORLD: Josh Warrington gets in a last big punch on Sofiane Takoucht  before the referee moves in to stop the fight at Leeds Arena in October 2019. Picture: Steve Riding.
TOP OF THE WORLD: Josh Warrington gets in a last big punch on Sofiane Takoucht before the referee moves in to stop the fight at Leeds Arena in October 2019. Picture: Steve Riding.

The Leeds Warrior suffered the first loss of his professional career as he was knocked out by the young Mexican at Wembley Arena, in one of the biggest boxing upsets on British soil.

However, the 30-year-old is not alone when it comes to stunning defeats.

Current IBO, WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion Joshua was astonishingly KO’d by Andy Ruiz at Madison Square Garden in 2019 and lost his world titles in what was the first defeat of his career.

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Josh Warrington celebrates retaining his world title against Sofiane Takoucht at Leeds Arena in October 2019. Picture: Steve Riding.

After his defeat to Lara, Warrington received a phone call from Joshua, with the pair discussing how the Olympic champion overcame his setback to return to the top of his weight division.

“I wanted to speak to AJ and out of the blue he called me up and we chatted for some time,” Warrington told the Yorkshire Evening Post in an exclusive interview. “The reason I wanted to speak to him was to see his mentality after his first loss and how he dealt with it.

“I have got a bit of a profile in Leeds and it has branched out nationwide but it is not as big as what AJ has, he is the heavyweight champion of the world.

“I wondered how he coped with things after his first fight against Ruiz and what he did to deal with it.

LOW BLOW: Josh Warrington being knocked out by Mauricia Lara in February this year. Picture courtesy of Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.

“He said to me that I needed to have my downtime and sulk for a bit, have a cry, but then you have to want to rewrite that wrong if the fight is there. The only way is up.

“By the time I put the phone down, I was ready to get back in for another 12 rounds! He has just got that way of speaking and he is obviously a massive figure in the sport.”

Joshua won his rematch with Ruiz six months later and on whether he will fight Lara again, Warrington said: “I have to.”

He continued: “I could potentially go into bigger fights.

HELPFUL WORDS: Anthony Joshua, pictured, after reclaiming the IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO World Heavyweight Championship belts from Andy Ruiz, had some good advice for Josh Warrington on how to bounce back from defeat. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

“Other champions may look at me and think I have got chinks in my armour, they could be more willing to fight me now, thinking it is going to be easier.

“But I have to rewrite this wrong.

“It would annoy me to see another British fighter to go out there and beat up Lara.

“I believe I beat Lara 99 times out of 100, with the exception being the first fight. I have to get this done.”

Josh Warrington during the public workout at Leeds Corn Exchange in October 2019. He hopes to fight in front of fans once again later this year. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

Warrington believed he would finish his career unbeaten, joining the likes of the great Joe Calzaghe and Floyd Mayweather with a perfect record in retirement.

Having defeated the likes of Lee Selby, Carl Frampton and Kid Galahad on his way to the top of the featherweight division, he felt there wasn’t another 126-pounder he couldn’t deal with.

The defeat to Lara is a setback, but he is determined to not let it throw him off course as he targets more world titles.

He said: “You always try to look at the positivity in any situation. Getting a loss scared the life out of me.

“Prior to it happening, I thought I would finish my boxing career unbeaten. I didn’t think there was anybody out there who could beat me.

“I had dealt with every style put in front me and always found a way.

“I thought I would find a way against anyone but I still think I can go on and win more titles in this division.

“The only time when I would really come up against it is when I start going up the divisions and that is a goal of mine, to become a two-weight world champion.

“When it happened I wondered how I would bounce back from it but you don’t turn bad overnight.

“I don’t think Lara, even though he stopped me and had me on the canvas, is the level of a Carl Frampton or a Lee Selby or Kid Galahad.

“He just caught me on a bad night. When you look at boxing, many, many greats have suffered that defeat.

“There are only the few that have gone all the way through without losing, such as Joe Calzaghe and Floyd Mayweather. It is one punch. In all my years as a professional fighter, in 30 fights I have got it right but that one time I got it wrong.

“It is how you bounce back.”

Warrington’s list of injuries after the bout in February was extensive.

He had sustained a perforated ear drum, fractured his jaw, damaged the AC joint in his shoulder and had an old elbow injury flare up before the fight.

He hopes to return to the gym some time this month, but his trainer and father Sean O’Hagan won’t let him resume training until he is ready.

“For about four to five weeks after the fight I was just recovering. I am back on my feet now,” continued Warrington. “I want to get back to normal and avenge that loss.

“I am eager more than anything to get back to training but my old fella has still banned me from the gym for another week or so.

“I have already started running but I would like to think I will be putting the gloves back on some time this month.

“That is what you really want to do. I enjoy running but I want to get back into the boxing gym and do the work in there – that is the real stuff.”

Warrington hopes his rematch with Lara will be able to take place with a crowd at some point in August or September.

February’s contest with Lara was the first time that he had fought behind closed doors but he still felt the support of his fans from afar.

He added: “I have still felt the support massively, that is something that has kept me upbeat.

“Because, you hear the stories of fighters winning and people blowing up their phone with messages of support.

“Then they lose and people seem to disappear into the woodwork.

“That was one thing I feared, you wonder how people are going to respond and you feel you have let people down.

“But the amount of support and messages I have had has been off the scale. I couldn’t have anticipated it.

“It just shows the amazing people I have behind me.”

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