‘I would love to fight at Portman Road one day’ - Ipswich heavyweight Wardley reveals Town target ahead of latest O2 clash
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He’s one of the hottest prospects in British boxing, and fights for the third time at the O2 Arena this weekend – but Fabio Wardley has his eyes on one day filling a stadium much closer to home.
"I would love to fight at Portman Road one day," enthused the unbeaten Ipswich heavyweight, the man who brought professional boxing back to the town after 20 years when he headlined a card at the Corn Exchange last year.
"It's something that me and my family and coaches have spoken about, and it's something that I'd love to do. It's not a million miles off either - you see fighters boxing in football stadiums quite a lot these days."
While that's in the future, Wardley - who was at the Ipswich Town Academy as a youngster - has more pressing business this weekend, namely adding to his string of highlight reel knockouts and climbing further up the fistic tree.
He faces teak-tough Argentinian Mariano Ruben Diaz Strunz on the undercard of the PPV clash between his manager Dillian Whyte and Colombian sensation Oscar Rivas, and once more is expecting to enhance his status as a future force in boxing's glamour division.
Not that it's been easy to find a man willing to get into the ring and risk trading shots with Wardley (7-0, 6KO) - Whyte lamenting in an interview that no-one wants to fight the Suffolk stylist with sledgehammer hands.
"It's a half and half thing," said Wardley, 24. "There are a few people out there calling me out, but they've got no credibility - they're on the back end of their careers and just looking to get on a big show using my name.
"Finding decent opponents is hard, but there are lots of rubbish ones out there!"
In Strunz (13-14, 6KO), those in the Wardley business hope they've found their man a good test - nicknamed 'Ivan Drago', the Argentinian has only ever been stopped once, and that was in the final round of a contest.
"I'm hoping it's going to be rounds," said Wardley. "That's what we've been hoping for the last couple of times! He's been picked to get rounds out of, and he looks more the part than the last guy (Wardley's last foe, Dennis Lewandowski, whom he stopped in three rounds, was derided for looking less than svelte, despite his good record).
"I never go in there thinking that I'm just going to throw huge bombs, but at the same time I need to show I'm a force so, at some point I'll flick the switch and get him out of there."
Fellow heavyweight prospect Daniel DuBois did just that when he stopped Nathan Gorman in the fifth to lift the British title at the weekend and Wardley, who's sparred with both, was paying close attention to the fight.
"It was a good fight," said Wardley, who's also sparred with the likes of Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, Whyte, Dereck Chisora and Sam Sexton. "It didn't go as I expected - I thought Nathan would dominate a bit more behind his jab and movement, and make it a bit more difficult for Daniel.
"Take nothing away from Daniel though, he's improved a lot since we sparred and he's a real force now.
"It was a good fight for the divison, and Nathan will be back. I'm edging closer and closer to that level, so I pay a lot more attention to fights like that now."
Indeed, it surely won't be long until Wardley is wearing gold of his own - the only question is what sort. He's been talked about in connection with both the Southern Area and English titles, but neither has come off just yet.
"I think a title fight is imminent," he explained. "It's just finding an opponent for it. I'm ranked number 100 in the world with the IBO now, so maybe something like an IBO international title could be on the cards."
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