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Fabio Wardley: Ticking boxes

The career of Fabio Wardley has been about ticking boxes and one that remains unchecked is fighting Nick Webb.

By the end of tomorrow night, the English heavyweight champion (11-0, 10 KOs) will have just done that at Matchroom Fight Camp.

The two men fought on the same show in March headlined by the Dillian Whyte-Alexander Povetkin rematch in Gibraltar. Webb rejuvenated his career by stopping Erik Pfeifer, who had WSB experience behind him and was close to fighting Daniel Dubois last year, in two rounds. While Wardley did enough to come through against Eric Molina by knocking out the veteran in five rounds. 

Wardley, who isn’t normally one to get riled or wound up by opponents, let out a laugh when Boxing Social asked if Webb had rubbed him up the wrong way.

“I guess. It’s partly that,” he said before explaining why.

“I feel like I had to do certain things to get him to the ring. I’ve been chasing him for a long time. The reasons and excuses he come up with… I felt like I had to choose a different path, a different avenue to get him to the ring. I’ve not had an issue with anyone in the past. The only other time you saw this side to me was [with] Simon Vallily and it’s not a side I force. I guess it’s there when it’s there and when it’s justified but it’s not something you’re going to see from me in every fight. It’s not the type, or way overall I usually conduct myself. If I feel it’s needed, then you will get it at the same time.”

Webb’s presence anywhere near Wardley seems enough to motivate him for this fight. In a true boxing sense, he is looking forward to the type of test that the 6ft 5ins heavyweight will bring, particularly after getting a piece of the limelight in Gibraltar.

“He will bring some energy and he will bring some fire to the fight but I’m completely calm and confident in myself that I know I can deal with anything that comes my way,” said Wardley.

“It will be a challenge for me, he will pose some different questions but that’s what it’s about. It’s about ticking off different boxes and a different type of opponent. I think with Nick he’ll come forward a lot more and impose himself with his size and try to dominate that aspect of the fight, which will be something a little bit different for me. A lot of my opponents have backed up and backed away. It’s a different kind of test for me to figure out and work through.”

Another test for Wardley came in the shape of Eric Molina last time out. The 39-year-old falls into the Kevin Johnson category: has gloves, will travel, offers rounds. Johnson, though, knows how to survive while Molina, who was suspended for two years in 2018 by UK Anti-Doping following his loss to Anthony Joshua (in 2016), can be chopped down as Wardley proved. However, there were moments before its conclusion where the British prospect appeared out of sorts and somewhat uncomfortable with the tactics Molina was dishing out. So, was he happy with his performance overall?

“Initially, no. No, I wasn’t. I know myself. I know what I can do, how I can box, how well I can box. I could have made that fight a lot easier for myself, but this is the thing I say with me maturing and coming on. 

“On that occasion, I let the event get to me in a sense that I wanted to make it a performance. I wanted to force the pace of the fight, force the interest, make a statement. It was a really big fight for me, a really big bill overall. I just felt like I had a lot of weight on my shoulders, and I wanted to live up to all those expectations and in that mis-stepped a few times. I put my foot in wrong a few times and fell into the wrong side of the game which I didn’t need to. It comes with maturity. I understand now, I’ve done that. I don’t need to live up to anything, I just need to box in myself, do what I need to do right and ultimately get the win which I did on the night.”

Wardley admits that he is ‘90%’ certain that tomorrow night’s fight will be his last defence of his English title. Talk of moving on to the British version has been mooted for a while. Wardley vs Nathan Gorman for the belt has been mentioned, for example. All of that will be undone should there be a slip-up against Webb.

The threat of Webb comes as much from his size and power as it does from his unpredictability. An early win for Wardley wouldn’t be a shock. The two exchanging bombs and Webb throwing the kitchen sink shouldn’t be unexpected either. 

Last year Simon Vallily ruffled Wardley’s feathers, then came the perceived durability of Richard Lartey followed by the experience of Eric Molina. Three wins with various boxes ticked each time.

“I want fights that challenge me in different ways,” said Wardley, “and pose different questions to me because I want to get these things ticked off and marked done as soon as possible in my career. 

“I don’t want to get to a later stage [in my career] and be in a big fight with someone who maybe has three, four, five elements to his game and I haven’t come across three of them and I don’t know how to deal with them. 

“I know how to deal with someone who is fired up like a Simon Vallily. I know how to deal with someone who is tough like a Richard Lartey or someone who is a bit cheeky in the ring and knows their way around, who has a good ringcraft like Eric Molina who has been in the game a long time. I’ve ticked those boxes; I know what to do with them situations now. Thankfully, I’ve always come through and got the win but ultimately, it’s about learning from those fights and what I can take from them moving forward.”

Wardley wants to assure himself as much as those tuning in tomorrow night that the mistakes made against Molina won’t happen again. He calls himself a quick learner and the annoyance he felt from his last bout acts as a reminder not to go down that road again.

“I know how I felt when I watched that Molina fight back for the first time and I was disappointed in myself,” he said.

“I don’t make the same mistake twice. I won’t catch myself slipping like that twice. I’ve developed a good understanding with myself in that I can quickly have a conversation with myself and sort out what we need to do and basically just focus on the task in front of you.

“If I veer off course that’s when things can go wrong but because I’ve done it once already and I know what’s down that road, I’m not doing it again.”