By Richard Hubbard
Josh Warrington reckons it is a case of perfect timing in jumping aboard the BT Sport-BoxNation bandwagon following his promotional tie-up with Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren.
The relentless, come forward volume puncher is on the brink of the big time, possessing a 24-0 record and having accumulated more or less every belt available to him in readiness for his shot at the top.
The English, Commonwealth, British, European and WBC international straps have resided at his home in Leeds since he started his collection with the national title in late 2012 in Dudley. Now only one of the big ones is missing and he is banking on his new promoter to help fill the void.
The fact that he can take the next step in front of probably the widest potential audience available to a British boxer is something that stimulates the likeable featherweight.
“It is exciting, with Frank teaming up with BT and moving forward with those guys, it looks like he really wants to push on in making that work,” said the 26-year-old. “It seems like he is going to give it a real good go, signing a few new fighters – me being one of them – and I am excited to be part of the team.
“I want to help him really push the promotions forward and, at the same time, he will help me push on in my career. I want to be getting the big fights and I think this is the best way for me.”
While a crack at a world title in 2017 is top of his Christmas list, Warrington accepts the pause button may be pressed by his team in the short-term for his own good due to the fact that his career has stalled slightly since his last fight at the end of the July.
“I am going to leave it with Steve (manager, Wood), Frank and my dad (trainer, Sean O’Hagan), but I am desperate for the world title shot now. My last couple of fights have been there or thereabouts at world title level but, at the same time, I have come through pretty quickly and kind of got fast tracked to where I am now.
“I won the British, went straight for the European and in the next minute it was international titles and final eliminators. I have had to learn and step up each time and really raise my game.
“I think if you put me in the ring with one of the world champions I would be more than capable of doing the business.”
He is fully prepared, however, to conduct a little further business at fringe world title level in order to ensure he is fit and fine tuned ahead of stepping up to the elite.
“Yeah exactly, you talk about ring rust and you can talk about momentum as well. By July I had already had two fights and by the back end of the year I thought I would have had another one, but that didn’t happen.
“So you can lose momentum, like a footballer if he is not getting regular games, he loses sharpness and his touch and you can drop off the radar a bit.
“That is the same with me, I’ve not been active and wouldn’t mind getting one to get me back in and go from there. I want to be going for a world title being as sharp as I can be and as ready as I can be – I don’t want to be going into a world title fight after a long layoff.”
When it comes to plotting a successful career path, Warrington knows he will now be guided by a man with plenty of previous of putting fighters in the right fights at the right time. Taking the plunge is one thing, it about emerging with the prize catch and keeping hold of it.
“You look back over the years of past champions going back to the likes of Naz (Hamed) and the career of Ricky Hatton. He helped Ricky get to where he was and made sure he got the good experience behind him, a load of fights under his belt and got the world title when he was ready – at the right time and wasn’t rushed into it.
“With champions like Terry Flanagan he has done a really good job with, he got the world title at the right time and he is just coming into his peak. I’d say I’m still another year away from my peak, I’ve only just turned 26 and they say you don’t get there until 27 or 28, so time is on my side, so it is not like we have to rush through it. It is the one advantage I’ve got.”
It is a very modern thing for fighters to be propelled into world title combat, by public demand, as soon as their names pop up high enough in the rankings of the various governing bodies. It may make sense financially, or right for the champion to be tucking into an undercooked challenger, but Warrington is in it to win it and knows that timing is everything.
“This is it, you want to make sure you are ready. I think I am ready to go now, but I am a fighter and you want to fight the man in front of you and want to fight the best to test yourself. But, at the same time, you’ve got to understand the process.
“The fans bay for blood and want to see the fights, understandably so because they pay their money and want to see competitive fights. This is not like any other sport though, it is not like tennis and if you get knocked out at Wimbledon you can have another go next year.
“I might be waiting two or three years before I get another shot if I do it wrong, so you want to make sure that when you are ready for your shot you go and take it and stay up there for as long as you can.
“You don’t want to be just dipping your toe in the pool, shall we say, you want to be getting straight in there bombing! You want to win the world title and not just win it, you want to be staying there at that level.
“I’ve had dreams myself of winning the world title, fighting at Elland Road, taking the Leeds mob over to Vegas. You don’t want to win it and lose it in the next fight, you want to be like Terry is now, winning and defending it.”
When word of Warrington’s imminent defection crept out on social media his ex promoters were quick to get their retaliation in first with the release of a statement confirming the news and a subsequent interview making claims not entirely in keeping with the facts.
The Leeds Warrior has no desire to swap snipes with his former paymasters, but does dispute the assertion that he recently rejected the prospect of facing the IBF champion Lee Selby and wasn’t prepared to entertain other big fights.
“It is far from it and I was just a little bit disappointed in how an interview came out,” he admitted. “I am not going to sit here and slag Matchroom off because over the last couple of years it was brilliant working with them.
“Steve Wood laid it out exactly how it was and I was there with him at the weigh-in for Crolla-Linares and Ed (Hearn) came along and said he was going to make an offer to Selby’s team, where it would be a big offer and I was gonna get looked after.
“I thought that would be brilliant and it was him who stated it was going to be a big pay day and it was him who stated he was going to put a big offer in. It didn’t happen.
“Weeks went by and weeks went by and it was a case of ‘what’s happening?’. I was ringing Steve every day and he hadn’t heard owt, then it just went stale. We wanted that fight, the previous offer went in July when the timing wasn’t right and we said we would go in at the end of the year.
“It could have happened at the end of the year and there is no good reason why it didn’t. Steve spoke to Selby’s team – his manager Chris Sanigar – and they said they had never received an offer. I don’t know where it went missing.
“It was frustrating because it kind of mugged me off a bit.”
When all said and done, Warrington now has a new beginning to embark on and, put on the spot as to how his year would pan out in an ideal world, domestic assignments were very much top of charts.
“Previously I would have thought, fight the Welshman because there is a bit of personal needle there, then fight someone like Carl Frampton at Elland Road – that would be a bit of a dream because he brings a lot of fans and my fans would turn out.
“That would be perfect, but we’ve got to get back in the ring first because having a six or seven month layoff is not really good. I need to put myself right back in the picture and get a bit of momentum back. I want to get back in the ring and really make a performance.”
That date for the BoxNation-BT Sport diary will be booked in very soon, so watch this space!
More from Josh next week when he admits he nearly put pride before his bride