How Josh Warrington overcame his mental challenges following shock defeat to Mauricio Lara

Josh Warrington felt so low following his shock defeat to Mauricio Lara that his mental recovery became just as difficult as his physical one.

Josh Warrington in training at Leeds Beckett University ahead of rematch with Mauricio Lara. Picture: Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing.
Josh Warrington in training at Leeds Beckett University ahead of rematch with Mauricio Lara. Picture: Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing.

The Leeds Warrior sustained a fractured jaw along with a perforated eardrum and damage to his shoulder as he was beaten by the hard-hitting Mexican in one of the biggest upsets in British boxing history in February.

He also had an operation on his elbow following his first professional loss and admitted the extent of his physical injuries kept his mind off the impact of the defeat.

Warrington had vacated his IBF featherweight title prior to facing Lara as he eyed a shot at the WBA belt against Can Xu. It was when he was driving home after attending the heavyweight clash between Joseph Parker and Derek Chisora in May that it all hit home.

“Time’s a healer. If you’ve got a worldie of a girl and she leaves you, you’re devastated and you think your world has come crashing down,” said Warrington, who seems like a man refocused ahead of Saturday’s rematch with Lara at Headingley.

“But eventually, you go out and find another girl and she’s the love of your life. For the first six or seven weeks, I was dealing with injuries and that covered up all the thoughts of losing.

“I had a fractured jaw, I had to have an operation on my elbow, I had a damaged shoulder, my ear was perforated.

“I didn’t really leave the house because I was kind of embarrassed and I didn’t want to bump into folk and them asking me ‘what happened Josh?’.

Josh Warrington is consoled by Mauricio Lara after their featherweight contest in February. Picture: Dave Thompson Matchroom Boxing.

“For six weeks, I was recovering. Then, when I went to the Parker-Chisora fight, that’s when it hit home because that should have been my night, that should have been my re-organised fight with Can Xu.

“I was driving back from Manchester that night on the M62 and I broke down after that, it’s probably the lowest I’ve ever been. For about two weeks I was just moping around the house; I couldn’t be bothered about anything.

“The garden was piled up with dog poo and I couldn’t be bothered going out and dealing with that.

“It got to a stage where I thought I could do something about it or just keep moping about, so I dusted myself off and got back in the gym when I could.

Josh Warrington has been wringing out every last ounce of physical and mental effort during training at Leeds Beckett University ahead of his rematch with Mauricio Lara. Picture: Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing.

“I thought I’m not the only fighter in boxing who’s lost and that’s where my mindset and motivation changed.”

Thoughts of quitting for good never crossed Warrington’s mind, however.

Victory on Saturday should propel him back into title contention and an emphatic win would certainly put the rest of the featherweight division back on notice.

He continued: “When I was having that down time I was just feeling sorry for myself. It was not the case of ‘I’m never going to go back to the gym’. I think I was dwelling on what should have happened pre-pandemic.

“I’d got off three fantastic fights and we were looking at Headingley for Can Xu. The plan was Can Xu, Gary Russell, and I was probably feeling sorry for myself with everything.

“I don’t think I thought ‘I’m going to hang them up’ but I think it was just me putting off the thought of getting going again. I wanted to make sure I had enough energy, motivation to do that. I never thought about hanging them up.”