LEEDS boxer Josh Warrington had one main ambition upon turning professional in 2009 – to become British champion.
Just five years later it was mission accomplished – leaving Warrington to set himself a new goal – headlining Leeds Arena.
Now that ambition has been fulfilled as well.
Warrington, it seems, is a man for the big stage – perfect considering his new ultimate ambition is to be crowned featherweight champion of the world at Elland Road.
Unbeaten multiple champion Warrington has made enormous strides since making his professional debut in October, 2009 when defeating Delroy Spencer at Huddersfield Leisure Centre.
Six years on, the European featherweight champion will pack out First Direct Arena tonight for the defence of his Commonwealth and WBC International titles against Australian Joel Brunker.
Yet a measure of the Garforth-based boxer’s progress and potential is indicated by the fact that tonight’s bout is merely an aperitif for what is to come.
Brunker has lost just once in a 29-fight career yet Warrington is a general 1-5 favourite to land the 22nd victory of his professional career in a fight being televised on Sky.
It is likely that the sky is also the limit for the main focus of their attentions tonight with Warrington ultimately plotting a 2016 world title shot at IBF champion Lee Selby – the only man to have beaten Brunker – with the bout potentially taking place at Elland Road.
With Warrington being an ardent Leeds United fan and regular in the stands, victory there really would fulfil his wildest dreams.
Warrington told The Yorkshire Post: “When I turned pro, for me, the dream was to be a British champion.
“Then when I saw the Arena get built I thought ‘I’d love to headline a show there one day.’
“I’ve done both already in my career so now I have set my sights on winning a world title and winning a world title at Elland Road would be something even more special.
“Because it keeps getting mentioned, I have kind of visualised myself doing it now – on more than one occasion.
“I was down there on the pitch against Sheffield Wednesday and I could just see a ring there and the stands all filled up and all chanting Marching On Together. It would be brilliant.
“That gives me a little bit more incentive to win these fights and if I keep on winning then we get one step closer to that dream.”
What makes Warrington’s story all the more remarkable is the contrast between his fighting style and day job.
The 5ft 7in fighter has lightning-fast hands in the ring but needs a steadier approach outside of the ring – as a dental technician for Beever Dental Laboratory, a dentistry firm based in Adel.
“They joke and say I make teeth in the day time and knock them out at night,” laughs Warrington.
But the day job has been somewhat on hold of late with Warrington edging closer to a world title shot.
The popular Yorkshireman must first pass tonight’s assignment – and likely another bout before Christmas – but Warrington versus Selby at Elland Road could take place as soon as next summer.
Assessing when he might get his chance to fulfil his latest dream at Eland Road, Warrington said: “I don’t know yet and I leave all that in the hands of Eddie Hearn and Stevie Wood – my manager.
“It’s all down to them really.
“They are in no rush to rush me on to that world stage and I’m a boxer – I just want to fight whoever. They want me to be steadily progressing and I know that Lee will want to defend his title a couple of times.
“He’s already spoke about wanting to fight in America before anything concerning me so I think between the promoters they would want to let the fight build a little bit more. That could possibly be something like next summer, but you never know what happens in the sport of boxing.”
With Warrington, though, you are almost guaranteed to know what will happen – the night will end with another victory.
The former John Smeaton Academy pupil became English champion in 2012 before adding the Commonwealth title in 2013 and both the British and European belts followed as part of a stellar 2014.
The boxer then never looked in any danger in adding the WBC International Featherweight title to his collection when beating Denis Tubieron at the Arena back in April as he celebrated the 21st success of his career.
Then, just one month later, there was another celebration in the Warrington household as he and long-term girlfriend Natasha Lynch got engaged.
After several years of facing questions about not just boxing rings but also wedding rings, Warrington finally popped the question in Cancun, Mexico, explaining: “It was something that was on my mind for a bit of a long time.
“I’ve been with Natasha for six years now and she has been with me through thick and thin and through my whole career.
“We’ve been through so much together since a young age so after the Tubieron fight it was something I definitely needed to do.
“We had a little holiday booked in Mexico and I waited until the last day when I took her out on a surprise – a bit of a cruise looking over the Mexican coast.
“There seemed to be about another 30-odd American couples on the same cruise and I jumped up on the deck of the ship and got down on one knee and got all gushy on the microphone!
“I’d organised it with the captain so he knew – there was a trumpet player and a saxophone player playing along but he said ‘Hang on a minute, we’ve got someone here who wants to say something to his special lady’ and handed me the microphone.
“I never thought I would ever get nervous doing something like that but I tell you what, I had a few butterflies going on.
“I knew she was going to say ‘yes’ but I wanted to do everything right as you only get to do it once don’t you?”
Natasha did indeed say yes, and as well as having a likely monumental date in the ring next year, Warrington now has an even more important outside it. The boxer laughed: “I wanted to string it out for a couple of years but as soon as we got back to England, Tasha was already planning it and looking at venues and stuff.
“I thought ‘go on, let’s get it done, we might as well.’ So we’re probably looking at next year...
“I didn’t think last year could be topped – but these years just keep getting bigger and bigger.” Josh Warrington factfile
Born: November 14, 1990
Place of birth: Leeds
Height: Five foot seven
Turned pro: 2009
Titles: WBC International Featherweight, EBU Featherweight, Commonwealth Featherweight, BBBofC British Featherweight
Boxing record: 21 fights, 21 wins, four by knock-out
Management: Matchroom Boxing
Schools: Victoria Primary School and John Smeaton Academy
Daytime profession: Dental technician
Significant other: Fiance Natasha Lynch
Supports: Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos
Next fight: Australian Joel Brunker, September 5, First Direct Arena, Leeds. Defending Commonwealth and WBC International Featherweight title.