Destiny has been a recurring theme for Josh Warrington in the build-up to Saturday night’s IBF world title fight with Lee Selby. The 27-year-old has walked a long and at times frustrating road to earn his first shot but as is often the case in boxing, timing is everything. Warrington recently became the proud father of twins and almost nine years since his professional debut, he stands on the verge of achieving a lifelong dream at the home of his beloved Leeds United.
“I’ve said for a while that 2018 is gonna be a big year for me,” Warrington (26-0, 6 KO’s) told 32Red. “Outside of the ring with my family and inside the ring having a world title fight. It couldn’t have happened any better. I was in the gym early because I knew it might be hard with my wife having the twins but I’m always in the gym, always trying to learn and always trying to build. Nothing has changed in that respect, I’m just even hungrier.”
Warrington and Selby have circled each other for years but hadn’t actually spent any real time in each other’s company until the press day to officially announce the fight. By the time the pair sat down for a head-to-head across a dimly lit table, they had answered the same questions time and time again. Warrington chose not to put too much emphasis on any subtle hints he was able to pick up from Selby’s demeanour and has instead focused on what he and his team have seen with their own eyes.
“I thought he’d be just how he was. It was kind of hard to have a discussion and any conversation with him,” the former British, Commonwealth and European champion said. “It had been a long day of interviews and he contradicts himself so many times that he was confusing me with what he was saying so I just tried to overlook it all. He does try to put on a bit of a front. I don’t think he’s the most confident person but I won’t look into that too much either. Once we’re in the ring, the talking stops.
“Lee looks good if you’re watching him for the first time. If you’ve been watching him over the years you start to pick up certain habits and certain things he does. If you study him and and watch over the years, there seems to be the same traits he does after every fight. If you’re an opponent that walks in straight lines, you’re perfect for him. If you come with different angles and throw a bit of movement in, it seems to confuse him a bit. Those who think I won’t be able to deal with his style, well, I’ve had the likes of Hisashi Amagasa who was a seven foot tall Japanese guy with range like no other and awkward guys like Samir Mouniemne [who is the only man to have beaten Selby, back in 2009]. Against all these fighters I’ve been able to adapt.”
The fight has been spoken about for years, both boxers have been preparing for months, but Saturday night will see the culmination of a lifetime of effort for Warrington. His tactics will remain a closely-guarded secret until the first bell rings but it would be extremely unlikely that Warrington will throw away all of that hard work by allowing the atmosphere to get to him.
A very small percentage of fighters get to challenge for a world title, even fewer get the opportunity to do it on the centre circle of their favourite football team’s pitch. Selling out a stadium means even more phone calls about tickets, more local media and there has even been a camera crew following him around for a film about his life. Rather than let the demands weigh heavily on his shoulders, Warrington has soaked up every single moment.
“I’ve always said that I’d love to have a double. I’d love to be there in the crowd with the lads but also in the ring. Neither me or my team can afford to get carried away with the occasion. We want to be able to look back in a few years and say; ‘We did it.’
“If we get carried away and start looking at the fans or looking at who’s sat at ringside or even just think about it being a stadium fight, instantly your mind’s on something else. I need to be focused on my opponent and my opponent only. On May 19th it’s Lee Selby and Lee Selby only. As soon as I get in that ring, the horse blinkers are going on. I’ll listen to my team and for 36 minutes I’ll be solid. I can celebrate afterwards and then reminisce on certain things but my mind will be on the job.”
On the face of it, the fight has arrived at the perfect time for Warrington. Whilst Selby has plateaued in recent fights – although that may well be down to impatience and a slight lack of motivation as he waited for a bigger stage to perform on – Warrington has steadily improved and established himself as a solid championship level operator. On Saturday night, he needs to show that he is capable of improving even further.
“If you look at my last ten fights I’ve got more or less a fifty percent stoppage ratio. The stoppages have been coming when it really matters. In the early days it was all about getting to a certain level. When I turned pro I was a skinny 18 year old and I couldn’t mix it with the tough journeymen because I wasn’t strong enough. As the years have gone by I’ve developed. I’ve got stronger at the weight and I can sit on my punches a bit. A lot of the time it’s about getting the job done. You go into these fights and there is always somebody whispering in your ear that there will be bigger things after this.
“Do you go out and put everything on the line or do you go and get the job done and move on to the next level? That’s how it’s been for me for the past few years. This is the one where I can let everything go and bring everything to the table.”
32Red ambassador Josh Warrington takes on Lee Selby on Saturday May 19th at Elland Road. To see all our latest boxing markets, check out 32Red Sport here. If you’re up for a flutter on table games or the slots, be sure to check out our award-winning casino too.