“This is going to be a completely different experience,” admits Josh Warrington. The Leeds Warrior normally gets to fight in front of a noisy, partisan home crowd, but on Saturday against Mauricio Lara he will be performing in the boxing bubble for the first time.
Warrington hasn’t fought since he beat Sofiane Takouchet in October 2019, which means that this encounter at the SSE Arena will be his first fight since the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world. Without that usual vocal crowd, he will instead be fighting purely on instinct with no excuse to ignore his dad’s advice from his corner.
“It's going to be different, I can’t answer it! I can't look at the reporter in the eye and answer honestly because I don't know! I've said many times even when I was coming through, there’s been times where I’ve boxed on undercards and I’ve gone on after the main event when there are only a handful of fighters and my people there, but they can still make noise,” he explained to Betfred.
“I remember one time I boxed on a Sky show in Manchester, Brian Rose was fighting for a British title and I only took five fans over and I almost didn’t get paid for that because I hadn’t sold enough tickets for my opponent. But I still had people there making noise.
“This is going to be a completely different experience. It is going to be like a really intense sparring session. It is not a bad thing because over the years me and my dad have travelled the country going to other people’s gyms and we've felt tension when it's been really quiet. Ultimately when the first bell goes, the blinkers go on anyway.”
Warrington is planning an early finish for his Mexican opponent, saying in his pre-fight press conference: “I don’t think it will go past six. When I put on those little 8oz gloves and the little gaps I’ve seen in his defence I expect an early night, but with that being said I'm experienced for 12 rounds! I’ve done those marathons many many times.”
The Brit is a massive 1/25 favourite against Lara with Betfred, while he is 12/5 to win the fight between rounds 4-6. And Warrington seems to be in as high spirits as ever, even if he warns that there is a hell of a lot more on the line for him than Lara, who has been given a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Leeds fighter now has a lot more riding on his fights than his personal pride, and opened up about the responsibility he now feels to look after his family.
“She’s [He nods to his wife Natasha] been eyeing up a new kitchen and kitchen’s don’t come cheap! Going to have to get it on finance if I don’t come through this fight. We laugh and joke about it but it's my job. I'm at the stage now where I can look after my family, not just my immediate family. I’ve got a sister who is autistic and a brother who is registered special needs and I’m the eldest out of them. I’ve got a responsibility to look after them away from boxing and everything else.
“This isn’t just a job for me where I can have a nice watch and a fancy car, this is about taking care of my kids and my family around me, my brothers and sisters. There is more at stake right there, like I say, I’m very fortunate to be in this position.”
It has been a tricky few months for Warrington out of the ring. The 30-0 fighter was forced to vacate the IBF featherweight belt after a unification clash with Xu Can was not sanctioned by the governing body and he will now work towards winning it back, along with targeting the Ring Magazine belt.
“There has been a lot of frustration, first and foremost fights that were meant to happen falling through at the very last minute, change of opponents and then getting stripped of a hard-earned world title, it all came in the space of two weeks. Any time I’ve been asked the question I've not been too worked up about it anyway, I just believe it is a belt I will go on to win.
“IBF, I worked hard to get it, three successful defences, but I haven’t lost it in the ring and I’ve always believed I could go on to win another world title. I think there's a lot more for me to bring to the table. I believe at the end of my career I’ll have a lot more [belts], including the Ring Magazine belt and I’ll have won the major world titles. It has been difficult in some respects. History will show it was the right thing to do.”
The 30-year-old is also relishing headlining an event in such a historic time, even if it means fighting in front of no fans, in the bubble he has now entered during fight week.
“This is history right here, not many fighters have had the chance to fight in the bubble, some people have boxed in it on more than one occasion but we are living through history right here and I’m going to be one to say when it's all said and done that I headlined a show in the bubble when boxing was going ahead in lockdown.”