“WINNING the British title means everything to me. Since I was eight years old this is all I’ve ever wanted. I didn’t come in the gym like all the other kids, dreaming of a winning a world title. It’s always been about the Lonsdale belt.”
Josh Wale acknowledges that this is his last chance. He’s been in these fights before, but always on the other side, the opponent in the hometown favourite’s backyard and no one willing to do him a favour. But this time around, things are different. “The Outlaw” can finally fulfil his personal ambition on July 1, when the Barnsley man will meet Jamie Wilson for the now vacant British bantamweight strap at the Doncaster Dome, less than 20 miles from his Barnsley home.
The 29-year-old has compiled a record of 23-9-2, 11KO’s, since his debut back in 2006 at just 18, but has always fallen short in his previous attempts at the Lonsdale belt. This time though, he believes that it has all come together at the right time for him.
Wale told Boxing News: “I’ve done it the hard way my whole career. I’ve been close to packing it in at times. But, I love this sport so much, that I could never really walk away. Sometimes you don’t always get what you deserve in life, but this time I’m confident it will all come together for me.
“I’ve always taken fights, whoever and wherever, as nothing fazes me. I turned over young because I was desperate to achieve and I’m within touching distance of that belt. I’ve earned the respect of people within the sport and it’s humbling that these people give up just five minutes of their time when they see me at fights.
“I’ve never had home advantage for one of these fights. Even when it’s been local for me, the guy in the other corner is also from the same area. It’s been a long road, sometimes a very hard road, but I’ve not been deterred and the dream has drove me on when it got hard. Now is my time to win the British title.”
The Wale family are built on boxing and supporting Josh every step of the way has been his father, Mick. Despite been diagnosed with crippling spinal tumours, Mick has been the constant for Josh, who has kept him focused and picked him up when times were hard.
Boxing is their life and Josh has been running his own gym for the past five years, a phoenix club of his father’s old club that had to be shut down when he first got ill. Josh is now also registered with the board as a professional trainer, as he looks to the future in boxing.
Mick still plays a huge part in Josh’s camps, helping with his preparations and also playing a big part in his corner on fight night, where the carefully constructed game plan they’ll concoct they hope will come to fruition on July 1.
Josh added: “I come from a boxing family, led by my dad, but also my brothers, Gwyn, who is a former pro himself and Dempsey, who is at university in Leeds, but had a couple of amateur fights and when he’s back, he’ll focus on that. My son is called Jack Dempsey as well, so no pressure!
“I also run the gym, which I always promised I would re-open once I got some money behind me, which is now the case. I even live above it! It’s been open five years and it’s flying and I’ve named it after my dad as Micky’s Athletic Boxing Club. I’ve passed my course with the board and I’m now a registered trainer, so I’m sure that’s the way I’ll be going once I finish up as I love it.
“My dad has been my trainer since I was eight. But when he got diagnosed with spinal tumours, it was very hard. I didn’t know whether to carry on because if my dad wasn’t there and we didn’t do it together, it would be worthless and not mean the same to me.
“But he talked me round and I’ve kept going, even when he’s been receiving treatment in hospital or recovering from operations, I’ve taken fights. But we got to the stage where I needed someone else to lead my training as it wasn’t easy with my dad.”
The man who Mick Wale put his faith and his son’s career in the hands of was Stefy Bull, a former Area champion as a pro, and a trainer and manager who is building a quality reputation amongst UK fight fans. Bull even tangled with Josh’s brother Gwyn, edging a points decision back in 2005.
Wale believes Bull has helped him find that extra gear and most importantly has tapped into his popularity, putting him as the headline fight on his bills and motivating him to find that extra 10% in the gym and securing Wale that rare home advantage.
Wale laughed: “It’s funny how boxing works at times isn’t it? My dad told me I’d be working with Stefy and I wasn’t sure at first, but was prepared to give it a go. Most fighters need their trainer to be a father figure, but I don’t as my dad is still there, so Stefy is more like my mate.
“I’ve got so much time and respect for him, and I remember the second fight with Gavin [McDonnell], as he played a huge part in securing that draw for Gav. Even though I came on strong at the end, Stefy was so good in the corner, pushing Gavin, constantly shouting every time he threw a shot, even when he missed, so it’s nice to have him in my corner this time around.
“We’ve built a strong relationship over the last 18 months and the first thing he asked me was why do I always go away from home? He tapped into my popularity and put me on the top of the bill, which works well both ways, as I always do well with tickets, because my support always follow me everywhere.”
Since the two joined forces, Wale has won five of his last six, with the only reverse coming last July, when he was on the wrong end of a unanimous decision to top prospect Gamal Yafai in a clash for the Commonwealth super-bantamweight crown.
A decision was made and the pair decided the best weight for Wale, who has fluctuated up and down in weight throughout his career, was bantamweight, where he is now the reigning English champion after getting the better of Ramesh Ahmadi in March this year.
Wale also wants to win the title, not just for himself and his family, but for the loyal supporters who have travelled the country with him, win, lose or draw. Some have even been at his side since his first amateur fight as an 11-year-old. Josh says the win will be as much for them, as it will be for him.
“I feel strong at bantamweight now, which is crazy considering I’ve been up as high as featherweight in my career. You always say that, but I really do feel it. I’m making the weight easier now than I ever have, which is proof that you live and learn in this sport, especially when it comes to things like rehydration.
“I’m an easy guy to relate to, as I’m totally normal and don’t put on any big act for anyone. What you see is what you get. I always do well with tickets because of that and this win will mean as much to them, as it will do for me.
“They’ve seen it all with me. Whether it’s a bad decision or loss, they will be back the next time to travel the country with me once more. Some of them have been with me since my first fight as an amateur and been everywhere in the UK to see me fight. This will be my way of paying them back.
“Holding that Lonsdale belt means the world to me. I’m so well prepared for this, I can’t wait to get in there now. I’ve been sparring with Jamie McDonnell, who in my opinion is the best bantamweight on the planet, so I don’t know where you have to go to get better sparring than that.
“It only seems like two minutes ago that I turned pro. I won an NABC Schoolboy title as an amateur and I want to get the equivalent in the pro’s. I deserve this and on July 1, no one is going to deny me getting my hands on the British title.”