When the words ‘And The New’ rang out at Elland Road on May 19 heralding Josh Warrington becoming Leeds’ first boxing world champion it capped a quite remarkable journey for the 27-year-old.
Over 20,000 supporters packed into Elland Road to cheer their hometown hero onto victory over highly fancied IBF World Champion Lee Selby.
Warrington had promised to wrestle the coveted title from the Welshman and the Leeds Warrior delivered with the performance of his career.
As with each of Warrington’s title successes — from English, British, Commonwealth, European, WBC interim and finally the world title — Josh used a backstreet Batley gym as the base for his camp.
Under the tutelage of dad and trainer Sean O’Hagan, Warrington has used Dicky’s Gym, just off Hick Lane, as his base since 2012.
It is a tried and trusted system which has taken Warrington from small hall shows to the pinnacle of world featherweight boxing.
Last Wednesday, Warrington took his newly delivered IBF world title belt to Dicky’s, where he posed for pictures with gym regulars and fans.
While Selby jetted off to America for his training camp, Warrington based himself in Batley, with Dicky’s Gym owner Mark Hurley a key part of the team as his strength and conditioning coach.
Hurley has been part of Warrington’s team for each of his 12 title fights from beating Chris Male to win the English title in November 2012 all the way to May’s world title bout at the home of Leeds United.
Warrington knows the importance of feeling comfortable in camp and would chose no other venue as his base.
He said: “When you look from the outside it looks like a dirty, mucky old building and when you walk inside it’s rough and tough but I speak very highly of this place.
“It’s a spit and sawdust gym but you can’t go wrong with what we have done under this roof. Some fighters have come and gone but those who have stuck here have done well for themselves and we now have Reece Mould travelling over from Doncaster to train here and there is now a good stable of fighters under this roof.
“I have won everything there is to win from here and I have been working with Mark for a long time with my strength and conditioning and he is a big part of my team.
“Lee Selby’s team thought I’d come unstuck. They were saying the difference would be that Josh Warrington is training out of a dingy old gym in Batley and we are going over to the States to train and for me and the team we stood back and laughed at that. You don’t need to be going round the world. It is whatever makes you most comfortable. If you are comfortable in your own place, you don’t need to go anywhere else.
“I was fighting in Leeds and I have always had my camps at home. I had my friends and family around me at home and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
“Once I have got a fight and a date in my head I will train harder than anybody and we have everything we need in this building.”
It was a dream come true for Warrington to fight at Elland Road — home of his beloved Leeds United — and capped a dramatic rise from fighting on the undercard at sports centres to a packed football stadium.
Warrington added: “I have accomplished everything I could have ever dreamed of but I am only 27 and I am reaching my peak years and I’m not finished yet. My first goal was to fight at Leeds Arena because I watched that get built and I managed to headline that on more than one occasion.
“I won the Lord Lonsdale belt there, the British title, which was my first goal when I turned professional and I did that at the age of 23 and after that you dare to believe that you can go all the way to the top.
“After that the only thing left to win and to prove was the world title. I set my stall out and was really ambitious and hungry to get there.
“No matter if I fight at Elland Road again, that chapter will never be replicated. Twenty-six years since boxing was last at Elland Road and Leeds had never had a world champion so we have become the first.
“The Kaiser Chiefs were there, Lucas Radabe making his return and doing the ring walk and the weather was fantastic so for me it probably can never be replicated.
“Even if I go on and fight in Vegas or box in any of these other massive arenas or stadiums that night will always be special.
“I’d happily go back there but I think that’s done now and a box ticked and I wouldn’t mind a big fight in Vegas.
“It has been pretty non-stop since winning the world title and I’ve been doing media and interviews from all over the world.
“I don’t think I’ve changed one bit.
“People keep stopping me and asking has it settled in yet and I reply with the same answer: I don’t want it to settle and for me, the day you feel satisfied then you lose that hunger.
“As soon as I got out of the ring I thought I want another one and I don’t want to stop here.”
Although the vast majority inside Elland Road on that balmy May night believed Warrington had recorded a landslide win over Selby, the fight was decided on a split decision.
Warrington admitted there were a few butterflies before he was announced the new champion and added: “I massively believed I won the fight and I raised my hand at the end and Lee knew he had been beat.
“He even said to me after the final bell that we need a re-match so he knew he had lost.
“My team jumped in and celebrated but my dad is always the most cool person and he just said let’s just see what the judges say.
“When they said ‘split decision’ I just thought no, no surely not but when the second card went to me I thought I’ve got this.”
Warrington was in Belfast last weekend to watch Carl Frampton defeat Australian Luke Jackson to win the WBO interim title and promoter Frank Warren has already lined up a mouth-watering fight between the pair later this year.
It would be another blockbuster night for the Leeds Warrior but Warrington has no plans to change his preparations for his first world title defence and he is already back at his Batley base putting in the early work before exact details of the Frampton clash are announced.