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The Rise and Rise of Fabio Wardley

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Exclusive interview by Ian Aldous: A mere forty-eight hours prior to our conversation, Fabio Wardley (10-0) was in the final stretch of preparation for his scheduled clash with former two-time world title challenger, Eric Molina (27-6) on March 6th in London. However, due to international travel restrictions, their heavyweight battle on the Alexander Povetkin vs. Dillian Whyte 2 undercard, and the entire bill, has been rescheduled for March 27th in Gibraltar.

You’d think it to be a major inconvenience, not so, for the twenty-six-year-old. “I’ve experienced a lot of delays and stuff earlier in my career, so I’m kind of hardened to it,” Wardley admits. “I’ve built calluses towards it really, where I’m just in the mentality of, ‘just keep going’. Just keep moving; nothing changes.”

“If anything, I’m one of the lucky ones to have a fight date and be able to fight compared to a lot of boxers I know that aren’t able to. It’s nothing to worry about,” he added.

Compared to the majority of fighters who have suffered hardship and, if they were very lucky, fought once in 2020 – a year blighted by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Ipswich heavyweight was fortunate to fight twice.

“I’ve got stablemates and friends who haven’t been able to fight for a year – coming up to two years. Everything’s moving in the right direction for me. I was able to fight twice last year, which I see as a blessing, and I’m just happy with my progression and how everything’s moving. I’m able to move into bigger fights with the likes of Eric Molina. I’m really happy with the progression of my career and the direction things are moving in.”

While many careers have stalled, his skyrocketed. Last August, in Eddie Hearn’s back garden, Wardley claimed the vacant English heavyweight title with a third-round stoppage of Simon Valliy. Then, in November, he clinically dispatched Richard Lartey. In fact, his second-round knockout of Lartey was completed more quickly than Daniel Dubois (fourth round KO) and Nathan Gorman (UD10) were able to accomplish in bouts against the Ghanaian.

The humble heavyweight smartly used those contests as ammunition to add to his arsenal to prepare correctly for his turn against Lartey.

“I knew how tough he was. He had a good back-and-forth with Daniel and took Gorman ten rounds, so he’s no pushover,” he said. “I did expect a lot more, in terms of rounds, from him. But the opportunity comes when it comes and you have to take advantage of it.”

“Styles make fights and it just so happens that my style was more awkward and more uncomfortable for Lartey on the night.”

On March 27th, former Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder rival, Eric Molina, provides the next test in the fledgling pro’s early career path. The American has only failed when matched versus the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. It’s a clash that Molina is clearly dedicating himself to.

“He’s even gone as far as sending me DMs and messages letting me know (to), ‘not take this lightly because I’m going all out with training’,” Wardley revealed. “He let me know that, ‘this is going to be my last stand, kind of thing. This is do or die for me’.”

“Don’t get me wrong, he’s not going to be the Eric Molina of four/five years ago, but the last thing you get rid of is your power. There’s nothing that I will do that will be new to him, or will throw him, or faze him that he hasn’t gone through before.”

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HANDOUT PICTURE COMPLIMENTS OF MATCHROOM BOXING
Fabio Wardley and Richard Lartey, Heavyweight Contest.
21 November 2020
Picture By Dave Thompson
Richard Lartey knocked out.

“He’ll be the old dog out their trying to pull me into later rounds and uncomfortable situations that he feels I probably haven’t been through before.”

As he prepares for a crack at a seasoned veteran, it’s quite incredible to believe that this will be Wardley’s fifteenth fight. You read that correctly, FIFTEENTH.

Stunningly, he has no background in the amateur game and his only previous experience before turning professional were four white-collar bouts. The 6’5″ puncher, trained by Robert Hodgins, started just for a bit of fun!

“I went to the gym one day and I never left. I was in from the first session, from the first spar, and bit of training. I wanted to get stuck in. Don’t get me wrong, on those first few days I was awful. I had nothing going for me (laughs).”

Around eighteen months later, after significant improvement, the opportunity to turn pro arose. With so little competitive action under his belt and with Suffolk hardly a hotbed of boxing, the advent of punching for pay was a difficult process.

“In the early years, it was very tough. There were so many things against me as I’d had minimal experience which equates to minimal connections within boxing, because I haven’t been anywhere and done anything. I hadn’t gone the amateur route either, so in terms of sparring, when I say I’ve had four white-collar fights they were suspicious and not as open to it. There were quite a lot of barriers in the early stages that we had to work through.”

Crossing into Norfolk and working with Norwich’s Graham Everett and Sam Sexton allowed Wardley to develop in those early, tough stages. Norfolk and Suffolk rivalries were put aside as the former British heavyweight champion and well-renowned trainer passed their priceless knowledge onto Britain’s next generation heavyweight.

Guided by his high-profile manager, Dillian Whyte, and promoted by Matchroom, his career is in good hands. At just twenty-six and with only fifteen fights, Wardley isn’t battle-worn unlike those heavyweights with 100+ amateur contests and a lifetime in the game. Expect him to soon be vying for the British, Commonwealth and European straps that will be imminently vacated by Joe Joyce.

Wardley’s tone of voice changes as we discuss a fight that recently fell through with Australia’s Lucas Browne.

“He’s one of the biggest divas I think I’ve come across in boxing, so far,” he said with more than a hint of annoyance. “He had so many demands and so many requests. One minute he was really on it and then the next he was blasé about it and wasn’t interested. It was just such a nightmare to try and get done and get made.”

He ran into the same pitfalls when trying to rebook the fight again, and told me he was, “sick of wasting my time on it.”

What took months and months of messing around with Lucas, only took a couple of days for Eric Molina to agree to. On March 27th, live on Sky Sports Box Office, Fabio Wardley looks to make another big statement in boxing’s glamour division. Just six years after taking up the sport – that’s quite an astonishing achievement.




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