At some point, someone somewhere will be doing a research on the number one cause of anxious dreams.
Apologize to the person for not looking into the results of their research, but it’s safe to assume that fear of a fight will be pretty high on any given list. Competing for the top spot would be the thought of stepping out in front of an audience to play an instrument or sing to them.
The idea of actually volunteering for both would lead most people to make an appointment with a therapist.
Late one Thursday evening, Josh Warrington was sitting next to the ring in his gym, picking up his guitar and softly singing his way through Oasis’ back catalog.
This isn’t one of those remarkable moments when someone decides to treat their unsuspecting guests to an impromptu acoustic guitar set.
The IBF featherweight belt holder spent the evening telling the story of his first public performance. Direct. On stage at the O2 Academy in Leeds. In front of about 2,000 people.
“I have been in the ring for 13 years now. There’s a moment when you walk from the dressing room down the hallway and to the door of the arena. Before they open and your music kicks in, you have some time to yourself,” says Warrington BN. “Everything is going on in your head. ‘Have I done enough? Am I ready yet? Am I ready yet? Has he done enough? Do I want it as much as he does?’ All these thoughts and feelings go through your head. You come up with all these scenarios in your head and it all happens in about 10 or 15 steps. There may be 20 or 30 seconds of you being alone but it feels like hours. The door opens and the TV guy or the floor manager will say ‘Okay, come over. Everything is left.
“Suddenly you are pumped. Put Mike Tyson in front of me. You’ve got a lot of energy. Your entrance music turns on and you walk away. It’s like you’re having an out-of-body experience.
Whatever happens after that, you are in the zone.
“That moment when I stood in front of O2 Academy. I peeed a little nervously at the last minute – which I still do on fight night, by the way – and they told me I would join in two minutes. I just thought, ‘This feels like walking to the ring.’ My heart started racing a little, I even started boxing.”
Given Warrington’s popularity back home, he could have earned a decent ticket for a solo gig but he was started by the Skylights, an indie band made up of Leeds United fans. Follow him as he beats Samir Mouniemne for a guest spot. Commonwealth title and become a full member of the train that has filled arenas and stadiums.
The band’s guitarist and de facto spokesman, Turnbull Smith, visited as Warrington recovered from a crushing defeat to Mauricio Lara and the idea of allowing him into their world took root.
“They wanted me to play the chorus of a song called enemy but I asked him about the chords of the whole song just to learn it myself,” said Warrington. “He sent them in and I picked them up. I sent him a video of me playing it and he said I could sing the whole song with them too. Then we started cleaning the house and doing the kitchen and I suddenly realized, ‘Damn it. That’s next week.’
“I went there and I didn’t rehearse once with the band. I’ve never even played guitar with another friend. I did a sound check and the next thing we were all plugged in, the amplifier was working, and I was on stage in front of an empty auditorium practicing.
“We started playing a little bit and I lost my voice a couple of times but Turn’s amplifier was a lot louder than mine so no one really heard my ball. The commotion I got when I stepped off the stage was like the hum of a war being stopped early.
“Johnny Kebab [otherwise known as his dad and trainer, Sean O’Hagan] used to play a little guitar and play in a band back in the day. I was late getting into it. Over the past few years, my love for music and desire to play has grown.
“It was definitely the things I did outside of boxing that put me in a rush. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything like it.”
Nerves never go away but experience means they become more manageable.
There may not be a hardened warrior waiting for Warrington on the other side of that stage door, but the alternative is still quite daunting. A large crowd paid their hard earned money to see their favorite band perform, they didn’t come to see a certain boxer fulfill their own fantasies. After all, even one person in the band joked, “Are you going to ask Frank Bruno to play the triangle?” when it was announced that Warrington would join them on their big night.
He may not have to deal with the fear of being hurt but the root causes of the anxiety – confusion, not knowing, failure and fear of disappointing himself and others – are common.
Warrington had become a master at not letting his thoughts overwhelm him. Not always so.
“I can say that in my circle I’m pretty confident but in front of people, I don’t really know I’m not. If I had to stand up and speak in front of the whole class at school, I would stumble, stutter and blush,” he recalls. “Even things like sports days. Because I’m competitive and I want to do well and not embarrass myself. When I run cross country, everyone expects me to win because I’m a boxer and then I get very nervous.
“Obviously experience, age and definitely boxing have helped but not all throughout my career. You know what I mean help? Work as a dental technician. When I started working in the lab, there were only nine or ten of us, but they were all much older than me. I’m only 17 years old. I can’t even talk on the phone. They often made me stand in the middle of the room and place orders with our suppliers. They will tell me to calm down. Just be normal and breathe. It was character building at the time. It tests you.”
It could be controlling the nerves on one last lonely walk from the locker room, one last hill sprint in a January sleet, or weighing another serving of broccoli.
Boxing offers many character building moments, and not all of them take place in front of the camera.
In March, the boxing world saw Warrington regain his beloved IBF featherweight belt by stopping Kiko Martinez seconds after having his jaw broken by the Spaniard. Reacting in the moment, he never had time to think or doubt himself.
In the weeks following the battle, he spent time recuperating with his wife, Natasha, and their twin daughters, monitoring home renovations and picking up his guitar. When he got back to the gym, it didn’t take long for him to realize that getting a clean certificate from a doctor was one thing but a boxer also has to pass all kinds of exercises. test cannot. performed by an X-ray machine or physiotherapist.
“I know what I signed up for. When you’re in the locker room and they bring in a new pack of gloves, you put them on and think, ‘I can do some damage with these’. Then you realize they’re wearing the same gloves,” Warrington said. “You can go out with a black eye or a broken nose. You might even break your jaw but that doesn’t matter. You are ready for that. It’s the unknown, when you don’t know how things will turn out. That’s what worries you.
“There were times when I was in the gym doing nothing much, just working on the ball and doing the movements. I will watch Maxi Hughes prepare for his fight and Reecey Mold fencing and fighting it. Especially on those odd occasions when players from other gyms come in, when the scrims are always a bit more intense.
“I was in it for a long time but when you get close and you can hear the punches and grimaces from the shots from the other side of the rope, you realize it’s pretty devastating. violent. When you’re in there, you don’t really realize it. I remember thinking, ‘Fuck. Can my jaw handle that?’ You can be the best defensive boxer in the world but you still get caught right? You start questioning everything but being able to put it in the back of your head comes from that powerful mindset.
Jaws passed the test and Warrington can only focus on defending his title against his must-have opponent, Luis Alberto Lopez, this weekend.
After the Mauricio Lara story, the thought of jumping in with another unannounced Mexican might be reason enough for a case of wet hands but this time Warrington didn’t jump into the unknown.
A year ago, he saw Lopez with his own eyes when he knocked out Isaac Lowe in London. Small, aggressive partners have been hired, and there is almost no talk of future competitors. Lara was ignored and heavy-handed enough to take advantage. This time, Warrington didn’t take it for granted.
He has gone through this process 33 times before. He knows the feelings he will experience when the locker room door closes behind him but he also knows they won’t overwhelm him.
“A little more experience has made us a little wiser and focused on the task at hand. It’s not one of those places where I think I’m going to get in there, go ahead and let him out. We’ve got a game plan and we know his strengths and weaknesses. We studied how to defend against what he does well and attack his weaknesses. It’s not known yet as you never know how it will play out in teamfights but we have more options on how it could play out. The odds are more in our favor.”
The Skylights spent nearly a decade loading amplifiers in and out of the back of trucks and playing for disinterested crowds before their appeal began to spread across the country. Warrington spent a similar amount of time honing in the arcades and promenades before his breakout.
enemy Playtime is 4 minutes 12 seconds. It was all time for the famous guitar maker, Gibson, to get in touch and send Warrington a free gift and let him experience the thrill that musicians have spent years pursuing. .
“Now I have reached the peak. It goes downhill from here,” Warrington laughed. “You can do a little boxing and right away you play in front of a few thousand people and get a free guitar. I didn’t pour blood, sweat and tears, exactly?”
Well, maybe not in the gym or studio.