‘I’m doing this for Ipswich’ - English champion Wardley hoping to inspire Suffolk as he faces big puncher Lartey
PUBLISHED: 16:16 18 November 2020 | UPDATED: 09:48 19 November 2020
©Mark Robinson Photography Ltd
English heavyweight champion Fabio Wardley heads into his fight with the dangerous Richard Lartey this weekend knowing that Suffolk is behind him – and he wants his achievements to inspire others across his home county.
Wardley, a former pupil at Chantry High School in Ipswich, is one of the country’s top prospects, having won all nine of his pro fights so far, the last eight in a row by stoppage.
He lifted the English title in his most recent bout in August, making light work of former Commonwealth Games champion Simon Vallily in a third round stoppage at super promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Fight Camp.
The 25-year-old’s come a long way since starting the sport just a few years ago and entering the pro ranks having had only four white collar bouts. He’s already one of only three fighters from Suffolk to lift a professional national title – Bury’s David Starie and Ipswich’s Steve Spartacus being the others – and says he hopes his story can be an inspiration.
“I feel the support from Suffolk,” he said, speaking from the Matchroom Boxing bubble, having passed his coronavirus test. “It’s really quite heart-warming to know that I’ve got such a massive support back at home.
“I feel like I’m doing this for Ipswich. I hope I’m a focal point to say that, if you want to have these hopes and dreams – be they in sport, or anything else – you can do it.
“You can come from somewhere like Ipswich – which is a bit smaller and hasn’t got everything a big city has – and still make it.”
Next up for Wardley is big-punching Ghanian Lartey (14-3, 11KO), who in his last two fights has gone to war in a fourth-round stoppage loss against brilliant British prospect Daniel DuBois, and extended the highly-rated Nathan Gorman to a points decision.
The clash is the co-main event of the Matchroom show at Wembley Arena this Saturday and will be shown live on Sky Sports. Wardley’s expected to make his way to the ring around 9pm.
Of the fight, the Suffolk stylist said: “He’s good. We know what we’re going to get - he’s going to be tough, durable and try to put it on me. It’s a different type of test, for sure.
“I think the key for me will be sticking to my boxing, getting behind my strong jab and working to wear him down. I’ve got to stay switched on, but I’ll start to slow him down and pick him apart from there.
“In this division especially, everyone is a puncher - but I don’t think he disguises his punches, they’re quite telegraphed and you can see them coming.”
Having dominated all his foes thus far, Wardley finds himself at the point in every heavyweight prospect’s trajectory where detractors acknowledge his talent, but ask what will happen when he takes a big punch. Having sparred with the likes of Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, Dillian Whyte, Dereck Chisora, the aforementioned DuBois, Joe Joyce and Sam Sexton, he has no worries about that, however.
“I’ve answered those questions in myself,” he explained. “I’ve been hit very heavily in sparring some of the best fighters out there, and I’ve always dealt with it. I understand why people would ask about it, but I know the answer already.”
So, what does Wardley see happening on Saturday? He told me: “I think he’s going to come out firing and really try to stick it on me for the first two or three rounds, but I’m going to pick and poke, stick the jab in his face and wear him down. Come the sixth or seventh round, I expect to get him out of there.”
Though Lartey will certainly be a test for former Ipswich Town Academy player Wardley, he was originally lined up to face former WBA heavyweight champion Lucas Browne (29-2, 25KO) in what would have been a really eye-catching match-up on the international scene.
But, after a lot of trash talk, the veteran Australian pulled out of the scrap, leaving Wardley disappointed.
“That was going to be a massive fight for me, a big step up,” he lamented. “It’s a big shame that it didn’t come off. It’s still a possibility down the line, I wouldn’t say no - but we’d be slightly hesitant because of how flakey he’s been in the past.
“That said, I’m hoping to get back out again in January, so if we could get it done, great - and that’s a fight I’d win, no doubt.”
Another fight Wardley will have his eye on is the British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight title clash at the end of the month between DuBois and Joyce - with the intention of fighting for the British title himself in 2021.
“The British title is the next step of the plan,” he explained. “We’ll see what DuBois and Joyce do and what happens next with the title.
“I think I’m about a year and a bit away from fighting guys like them. I still need to learn a lot, and I’ve got a lot of experience missing.
“Ability-wise, I think I’m there already, but there’s other bits we need to tick off first.”
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