LEEDS’S Josh Warrington will fulfil a long-term plan when he steps out for tonight’s IBF featherweight world title showdown at Elland Road.
Asked three years ago on Soccer AM how he envisaged a perfect world title fight, Warrington declared he would have the bout at a packed Elland Road, walking out to I Predict A Riot performed by the Kaiser Chiefs and accompanied by Leeds United legend Lucas Radebe for his ring walk.
Every box is ticked; the stuff of dreams for the 27-year-old as he prepares to take on champion Lee Selby.
Yet new father Warrington says his ultimate ambition is to secure the future of his family financially and believes that defeating Selby and becoming world champion will bring the really big pay-days in the years to come.
Lifelong Leeds fan Warrington will swap his usual place on the Elland Road terraces for a role on the pitch this evening as the undefeated fighter takes on Welshman Selby in an attempt to become IBF featherweight champion of the world.
The bout is the centre piece of a mouthwatering evening of boxing that also features Leeds’s double Olympic champion Nicola Adams, taking in the fourth fight of her new career as a professional, against Argentina’s Soledad del Valle Frias.
I’m fighting here at Elland Road but I am not going to get millions and millions from it even though people think I might – I’m the challenger.Josh Warrington
Victory means a world title shot would be next.
Bradford’s Darren Tetley takes on Mason Cartwright for the vacant WBO European welterweight belt and Yorkshire fighters Adam Jones, Reece Mould, Jack Bateson and Jack Daniel will also feature.
But it is Warrington who will take centre stage in the 27th fight of his professional career with the Yorkshireman having turned to the paid ranks back in October, 2009. He is yet to taste defeat.
Having worked his way up the featherweight ranks to claim the English, British, Commonwealth, EBC and WBC international titles, further victories then put Warrington into the position of mandatory challenger for a shot at a belt that Selby has held since May, 2015.
The Welshman has successfully defended his title four times, but Warrington has his eyes on the prize in terms of not just the belt itself but the riches that will go with it.
Warrington’s wife Natasha gave birth to twin girls 12 weeks ago and he said: “It’s not about me, it’s not about my position.
“It’s about the future of my family and winning that world title takes us on to the next stage of life.
“I’m fighting here at Elland Road, but I am not going to get millions and millions from it even though people think I might – I’m the challenger.
“But winning here and being a world champion after that, that’s when it brings the big pay-days and everything else and that’s when I can financially secure the family.
“Having our little girls is fantastic, to be honest. People might look at it and say that’s a distraction, but for me, it’s been nice to come home from training each day, putting my body through hell on the night and walking in and seeing their little faces and smiles.
“When the going gets tough in the latter rounds and certain thoughts and feelings enter your mind then things like that will come into it.
“When you need to find a little tiny ounce of energy just to get those arms going again then little things like that will do it.
“I have always talked about building an empire because I am the eldest out of my three brothers. I’ve got a brother with special needs and I’ve got a sister who is autistic as well.
“I know that maybe later in life they might need some help and I’d love to be in a position to be able to financially help them in life as well as my own immediate family.”
With Warrington keen to keep boundaries between his life as a boxer and that of a young father, the 27-year-old kissed a temporary farewell to his twin daughters yesterday.
He will be reunited with the twins tomorrow morning and, should he have his way, he will be greeting both them and Natasha with a new belt.
The Yorkshireman will have the vast majority of a likely 25,000-strong crowd on his side in his attempt to secure that belt at Elland Road and Warrington is unconcerned about being perceived as the underdog.
He said: “It’s a two-horse race and we have seen over the last few years that there have been some crazy odds and you do often wonder where the bookies get it from.
“But I’m unbeaten and I’ve always come through the test when I’ve needed to. You can never back against me.”
Assessing Selby’s status as long odds-on favourite, Warrington argued: “A lot of people will just think that with Lee and the way he goes about his business, and being undefeated as a world champion, that he’s got this in the bag.
“But don’t write me off because that’s when I think I am at my best, when I am the underdog.
“Over the years, I have been a massive favourite fighting at Leeds Arena, but at the same time I knew there would be someone else in front of me trying to take my position.
“There will be a load that are betting against me, but I use that as motivation for our camp and I think you will get a big surprise on Saturday night.
“Lee is a world champion, but you can’t really look at his performances and say he’s an elite fighter.
“He’s a very good world champion and he’s done what he’s had to do with who he has had to beat.
“But, for me, I have always said that I believe I can beat him and end his record.”