Exclusive: Josh Warrington inspired by Anthony Joshua as he bids to avenge defeat

Warrington is on the road to redemption and is more motivated than ever following an inspiring phone call with the unified heavyweight champion.

It doesn't feel too long ago we were witnessing greatness in the making at Elland Road when Josh Warrington ripped the featherweight world title away from Lee Selby in front of a jubilant, and rather intoxicated 25,000 fans in Leeds on a hot summer's day.

Warrington, who fought at the home of his beloved Leeds United, would better that night by outpointing British boxing legend Carl Frampton in 2018 at the Manchester Arena.

The Leeds Warrior did the hat-trick of domestic victories with a majority decision win over Yorkshire rival Kid Galahad in 2019.

By 2020, following the announcement of his return to Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing, Warrington seemed destined to unify the featherweight division before fighting against the likes of Shakur Stevenson and Gary Russell Jr. across the Atlantic.

And then Coronavirus hit the world.

It would see Warrington inactive for more than 12 months, vacate his IBF crown and pause his ambition of world domination.

Mexican Mauricio Lara was chosen for Warrington's warm-up fight at the SSE Arena in front of no fans as Matchroom Boxing continued negotiations behind the scenes to make a blockbuster bout between Warrington and Xu Can for April or May.

Warrington's world came crashing down on February 13, 2021, as the unknown 22-year-old Lara left the Leeds man bruised, battered and bloodied to earn an upset via TKO in the ninth-round. In doing so, he handed Warrington's first loss.

Redemption is now required later this year.

One man who knows what it is like to taste defeat to an underdog from Mexico gave Warrington a call to share with him his experiences of how to handle a heavy defeat and bounce back.

That man was heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

Labelled as finished by some, Joshua would avenge one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history by outpointing Andy Ruiz Jr. in their 2019 rematch to become a two-time unified world champion.

"He gave me a few lessons and a bit of advice for going forward and bouncing back from that defeat," Warrington exclusively told Planet Sport.

"Obviously, a profile like AJ's is off the scale - he's the heavyweight champion of the world.

Anthony Joshua got stopped by Andy Ruiz Jr. at Madison Square Garden in one of boxing's biggest upsets
Anthony Joshua got stopped by Andy Ruiz Jr. at Madison Square Garden in one of boxing's biggest upsets

"It's a hell of a sporting accolade to achieve and he's really boosted our sport in this country. Tyson Fury has done as well but AJ is a massive role model.

"I like to think I've got a big profile but he's got a profile all over the world and has got a crossover. I wanted to ask him a few questions regarding his mindset. It was interesting to see how he bounced back from it and he gave me a bit of advice about that.

"I spoke to him for about 30 or 40 minutes and after the phone call I was up on my feet shadow boxing," Warrington laughed.

"He said to me, 'Listen, you're going to have down days. You're going to sulk, be frustrated, you're going to ask why but you're going to have them days. Have them days. Sulk, cry, be down, pig out on crap food but once you've done that and it's out your system and you want to come back, then the only way is up. When you go from there, you'll have no regrets and you'll have straight focus. You've done all your moping about; you've done all your crying but that'll turn into hunger and focus.'

"I completely agree with him. For about four or five weeks after the fight I had injuries, had an operation so I was more or less just physically recovering and then I had a week or so of just going over the fight in my head like 'bloody hell, how did this really happen?'

"As soon as you've thought that and fully recovered and healed, that turns into fire. All of a sudden you want to return to the gym, you hope to get this fight announced and you want to get the rematch underway.

"You want to rewrite that wrong and I f****** can't wait to get back in the ring. It doesn't half give you a bit of fire in the stomach," Warrington added.

Despite talk of moving up in weight, Warrington is reluctant to do so until he has fought the best fighters from the 126-pound division.

But before tackling the elite, Warrington must return to elite status by avenging his sole defeat to Lara.

The 30-year-old is expected to return towards the end of the summer with Headingley Stadium being touted as the venue with hope of fans being able to attend.

If Joshua lands it will be curtains

While Warrington's rematch with Lara is certain for the summer, another showdown British fans are desperate to see is an undisputed clash between Joshua and Tyson Fury.

Despite Tyson and John Fury playing down the fight, a two-fight deal has been agreed and there will be offers sent out to both teams, according to Hearn this week.

The Gypsy King is the bookmaker's favourite to become heavyweight's first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis, but Warrington believes it will be a closer encounter than what many have predicted.

"It's a tough one," Warrington said. "In recent form, you can't knock what Tyson Fury has done. He's been unbelievable with his fight against Deontay [Wilder] that last performance was incredible.

"Over the years, the likes of the way he beat [Wladimir] Klitschko but AJ's adaptable and I think he is maybe the bigger puncher out of the two and if he lands it will be curtains. That being said, he has to land and Tyson Fury is very adaptable.

"He can move very well. If I had to pick one at this moment in time, I'd have to lean towards Fury but I've changed my opinion many times already to be fair," Warrington concluded.

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