Why Josh Warrington’s dad Sean O’Hagan is determined to prove he can be among greatest British boxing coaches

Unsatisfied with being a two-time world champion trainer, Sean O’Hagan wants to be remembered as one of the greatest boxing coaches Great Britain has produced.

By Ben McKenna
Saturday, 18th December 2021, 6:45 am

The highly-rated trainer has guided his son, Josh Warrington, from the English title to the IBF featherweight championship - with British, European and Commonwealth belts in between - before he masterminded Doncaster’s Maxi Hughes’s IBO lightweight title win at Headingley in September.

He also coaches top featherweight prospect Reece Mould, who boasts a professional record of 14-1 and has previously held the English title.

O’Hagan wants to continue coaching whenever it is time for his current crop of elite fighters to hang up their gloves.

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Josh Warrington and Sean O'Hagan at a press conference ahead of his fight against Sofiane Takoucht in October 2019. Picture: Steve Riding.

And to do that, he admits he needs a promising batch of young fighters in his corner.

One fresh-faced professional he has brought on board is Batley boxer Josh Hargreaves, with the two-time national amateur champion now training at O’Hagan’s gym which is based out of Garforth.

O’Hagan feels he has plenty to offer and has recognised some potential in Hargreaves since he came on board this autumn.

“Initially, I didn’t want to take anyone else on,” admitted O’Hagan. “I had Maxi, Rhys and Josh [Warrington], who are all high-level fighters.

Josh Warrington celebrates beating Dennis Ceylan after their Featherweight bout at the First Direct Arena in October 2017. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

“When Josh [Hargreaves] messaged me, we did some homework and he didn’t seem like a bad kid so we invited him down.

“He came up and had a session with us and I saw plenty of potential there and thought there was something I could work with.

“I can’t see myself ever retiring from boxing and you need that next generation to bring through.

“With our Josh, we did everything the traditional way by winning the English, British, European, Commonwealth and International titles before winning the world title.

Reece Mould, in action at First Direct Leeds Arena in October 2019. Picture: Steve Riding.

“We turned Maxi around from his bit of bad luck and he has beaten some very, very good fighters which has resulted in a world title.

“I just think there is more I can offer. I just don’t want to be a double world title trainer. I want to keep going on and on. I would like to be the best this country has ever seen.

“To be able to do that you need quality kids.”

Hargreaves signed for Queensbury Promotions just before the Covid-19 pandemic delayed sport across the country in March last year.

YES! Maxi Hughes v Maxi Hughes celebrates beating Jovanni Straffon at Headingley in September this year. Picture: Steve Riding.

The pandemic led to a period of inactivity for the boxer, who then turned to VIP Boxing, a promoter based in Manchester, and O’Hagan to get his professional career up and running.

He is now training alongside one world champion in Hughes and a former one in Warrington - although the Leeds Warrior is aiming to win another world title next year - and feels the experience of being alongside some of the best in the business can help him become a better boxer.

“There are a lot of things to learn in this gym. In my last gym I had reached as far as I could go but now I am at the bottom and need to work my way up,” said Hargreaves.

“Watching them and training with them, you are learning different things everyday.

“Sparring in the ring, they are telling you what you are doing right and wrong and there are no better people to learn off, really.

“In the next 12 months I just want to keep winning and keep fighting.

“I never thought I would be training at the side of world champions. You couldn’t get any better.

“I didn’t think I would get a chance like this but I am willing to learn and train hard.”

Hargreaves made his pro debut in Leeds last month, securing a points victory in a four-round contest with journeyman Jamie Quinn.

Given he had not fought for around two years, Quinn - who had boxed in 128 contests, losing 118 - proved a testing opponent for Hargreaves.

The Batley fighter handled the occasion well at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds to secure his first win as a professional.

“I was just ready to fight,” reflected Hargreaves.

“There were some nerves as it was my pro debut but I just got in the ring, stuck to the game-plan from Sean.

“He told me not to get silly, just box and that is what I did.”

O’Hagan has already seen the positive impact his other fighters are having on Hargreaves.

“He has been with us a couple of months already. He was with Queensbury all through the pandemic but he never had a fight with them,” continued O’Hagan.

“I can’t understand why because I have brought him in here and the potential he has shown is really, really good.

“I can already see some of Josh’s and Maxi’s traits rubbing off on him, with his movement and his punch selection.

“He is already picking up from all three of them and he is only going to get better.

“He is still in that transitional period from amateur to professional but I think he will make a good, solid pro.”

Hargreaves - who is nicknamed Ernie in the gym to avoid being confused with the other Josh under O’Hagan’s guidance - could progress to title fights quickly if things go as planned.

O’Hagan explained: “With any new professional, you need a few fights to bed them in and get them used to the pro game.

“But he is in his mid-20s, so I think he will be moved along very quickly.

“At the rate he is going, I think he will be knocking on the doors for titles soon enough.

“He listens, he is like a sponge. He is eager to learn.

“If I wanted him in twice a day, every day then he would do that.

“He is looking like he will make a consummate professional to be honest.”

Warrington, who has won world titles and headlined arena and stadium shows in his home city, has become the new hallmark of success for other boxers in West Yorkshire.

Now, O’Hagan and Hargreaves will be hoping their partnership as fighter and trainer can be just as fruitful.