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tct exclusive: simon grayson & david batty: leeds united behind josh warrington – part one

tct exclusive: simon grayson & david batty: leeds united behind josh warrington – part one

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In October 2014 Josh Warrington took on Davide Dieli to decide which of them would take home the European Featherweight title.

Anyone who had seen Josh fight in his career so far, and especially in the eighteen months when he won the Commonwealth and then the British titles, knew that he had the talent to come away from Leeds First Direct Arena that Saturday night as European champion.

Josh had something else on his side that night: the support of his home city in a packed Leeds Arena.

It’s not just the fans that want to support Josh. His achievements so far, and his down-to-earth attitude, have earned him the respect of his sporting peers in Leeds; Leeds United have invited Josh to Thorp Arch to spar with the players, and former captain Ross McCormack became a keen fan; Rhinos legend Jamie Peacock carried the Commonwealth belt into the ring before Josh’s British title fight, while team mates like Danny McGuire, Ryan Bailey, Brett Delaney, Joel Moon watched from the stands; and Josh has returned the favour, becoming a patron of Leeds Ladies FC and a role model for anyone in Leeds who aspires to be successful in their chosen sport.

The Lonsdale Belt, by Shang-Ting Peng

We weren’t surprised, then, when we found out that two men with both Leeds and Leeds United in their DNA were big fans of Josh Warrington. Former United player and promotion winning manager Simon Grayson, and Second and First Division champion David Batty, have both been following Josh’s career, and both had the same question ahead of the big fight: could they meet him?

We got Simon, David and Josh together a couple of weeks before the fight at Oulton Hall, on a morning when Josh was taking a rare break from training – but not from thinking about the upcoming fight. We could talk all day about what Simon Grayson and, especially, David Batty have achieved in football – and there will be more of that in the next video. But what immediately became clear as the three started talking was the respect Simon and David have for Josh and his career.

In our first video from the day, Batts asks Josh about starting out as a boxer – a tiny one, at that – and about how he’s preparing for his next opponent. The flip side to that question is whether Davide Dieli is prepared for what he’ll meet in Leeds: not just Josh, but several thousand Leeds fans, belting out Marching on Together and if, Josh has his way, another song at the end of the night. That support is something Josh thrives on, but as Simon Grayson recalls, not every player is made for the Elland Road big-match environment.


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