A fighter’s mind is another place. When it’s time to fight, when he’s weighed in and has nothing left but to sit and wait, a change comes over Josh Warrington. It’s almost as if he wakes up.
“When fight day comes round then all of a sudden I’m alive. So many thoughts are going through my head. I’m aware of everything that’s going on around me, sights, sounds. I just feel like I’ve got so much energy in my body,” he explains. “It’s not pressure, it’s not nerves. It’s just I’m away with my thoughts. I said in the film [Fighting For a City] I don’t feel alive [before]. For me when I step off the scales, that’s when it starts. The rest of life for me doesn’t continue until after that fight’s done. I go into a weird state of mind where I feel alive but that Sunday doesn’t exist.”
“Going through everything I’ve done to get to this stage. For me the career doesn’t continue until that fight’s done,” he continued. “You’re thinking about the fight and that’s it. That’s the only thing.”
It’s a sensation not easy to define, that only a fighter can experience. “Adrenalin, fear, anxiousness, excitement, all rolled into one,” he said. “Nothing replicates that feeling of fight night, especially when you’ve stepped off the scales and are getting ready. So many thoughts, so many flashbacks, so many emotions.
“It’s hard to replicate that feeling.”
Warrington, a new IBF featherweight world champion and in the prime of his career, knows he’ll miss that state of mind. “I’m under no illusion that I won’t be boxing forever. Everybody’s career comes to an end at some point. How do I replicate that feeling? I don’t know. What I do try to do is enjoy it as much as possible. Enjoy it, capture it, just hold on to it,” he tells Boxing News. He has a plan for his future, for life after boxing, but he knows there are some parts of the sport you just can’t take with you.
The man from Leeds is utterly determined to win while he can. “Some fighters don’t come out of there, they do have life changing injuries,” he said. But still Warrington thought to himself, “If I had a career ending injury, it didn’t matter, as long as I had my arm raised. Since having kids it has changed my mentality a little bit.”
Warrington’s mental strength is unremarked part of his game. He upset Lee Selby to win the world title, with a full football stadium and his whole city roaring him on. In the past Warrington has performed poorly, when he’s been too over-eager to please his fans. “It was a long time coming to win my first title,” he said. “You learn to deal with more media attention, more pressure off the fans, when you’re selling thousands and thousands of tickets, you’ve got that high expectation.”
He has in fact worked on his mentality. “I’ve always been a mental thinker and fighter. I used to visualise as a kid,” Warrington explained. “I got on to mindset and focusing. Three months later against Joel Brunker, mentally I was a different fighter. I walked in there, there could have been 100,000 people in there, I wouldn’t have known.”
“It’s something I’ve kept on developing, being able to focus and staying in the moment, staying with the gameplan and focusing. It’s something that helps. You work hard in the gym, get your body into fantastic shape, you have a decent haircut and that for fight night but you don’t work on a massive muscle, which is your brain and your thought process. People are only starting to do it, watching Lomachenko doing puzzles and bits of mental training. Meditation, concentration is all part of it,” he continued.
“I’ve got loads of different exercises that we do. We do stuff at the end of training sessions when you’re most tired. In a fight you’ve got to keep you mind sharp when you’re tired. So that always helps. We’ve got a lot of training drills where we do awareness, blindfold. Hearing noise in the gym, I’ve got to locate the noises. I do meditation at home, I just sit, 10, 15, 20 minutes, just sit silently focusing on different parts of my body. And visualising… Whilst I’ve been talking to you, I’ve been thinking about the fight constantly.”
Against Carl Frampton on December 22 in Manchester Warrington faces the ultimate test.
Josh Warrington: Fighting For A City is out now on DVD and digital download, find it on Amazon.