‘I’ve got some things to prove to people’ - Wardley predicts stoppage in English title fight
- Credit: Mark Robinson
Suffolk heavyweight Fabio Wardley is ready to make history when he fights Simon Vallily for the vacant English title this Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
Red hot prospect Wardley (8-0, 7KO), was due to face Commonwealth Games gold medalist Vallily (17-2-1, 7KO) at the Newcastle Arena on April 4, in his first title shot, but that was scuppered by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, the fight will now take place in a tent in the garden of super promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing HQ in Brentwood, and be broadcast live on Sky Sports, as part of the first week of ‘Fight Camp’ this Saturday.
It is a fight event and week unlike any UK boxing has ever seen, with Wardley arriving in Essex yesterday to undergo Covid-19 tests, before being quarantined to await results. His head coach, Robert Hodgins, was also in quarantine in the Fight Camp hotel - where everyone is in separate rooms and can’t leave the ‘bubble’ – until the tests all came back as negative this morning.
“It’s been a bit odd,” Wardley said from his hotel room on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s not been too shocking as Matchroom did a good job prepping everyone and letting us know what we’re getting into.
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“The tests aren’t as dramatic as everyone makes out - I’ve heard some horror stories, but it’s not really that bad.”
So, while Wardley sits in his room watching Netflix and ordering room service, what’s his approach to what is the biggest fight of his career so far?
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“I try to keep things simple and normal,” he explained. “Stick to a routine, don’t get sidetracked. I don’t really change in the run-up to a fight – my whole team ethos is about enjoying it and having a laugh and a joke.
“I switch about 15 minutes before the fight, but that’s not anger, it’s focus - time to pay attention, time to switch on and do my job.”
The man standing across from him in the ring on Saturday is certainly Wardley’s biggest test so far – Vallily, 34, boasts far more experience and pedigree than the Suffolk stylist, who came into the sport via the white collar boxing route.
And Wardley, 25, expects Vallily to try to fluster him early.
“I think initially he’ll try to put it on me in the first round or two, trying to make his mark on the fight,” said the former Chantry High School pupil, who’s sparred with the likes of Tyson Fury, Olexsandr Usyk, his manager Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora in his impressive fight education so far.
“He’ll think that I’m young and naive and nervous at this stage of my career, but that won’t be the case at all.
“After he’s realised he can’t do that to me, he’ll try to counter punch - which won’t work either.
“Don’t get me wrong, there will definitely be some hard moments, he’s a good fighter and he’ll bite down on his gumshield, dig in and stick it on me, and I’ll have to come through the other side of that - I welcome it, I can show that nasty, determined side of me which people haven’t really seen so far.”
Preparing for an English title fight on such an historic show is just the latest step in what’s been a rapid rise for Wardley, who’s gone from small hall nights in Norwich to the bright lights of the O2 Arena as one of Hearn’s favourite young prospects. But he says he tries to take his ascent through the ranks in his stride.
“I try not to get too lost in it,” he explained. “You try to just keep going - the moment you look back, you lose focus on how much more there is to do.
“This is a massive piece of boxing history, after what has been a really tough time for people. I’m always very thankful that I’m part of something like this.”
Back to the fight, and Wardley finishes with a prediction. “I still think I’m going to stop him,” he says confidently.
“I’ve got some things to prove to people out there, so I’ve got a bit to show – but once I’ve done that I’ll put the pedal down and get him out of there.”
He added: “I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone that’s been sending me good luck messages, and all of my sponsors - I really appreciate it.”