Fabio Wardley is one of Britain’s most exciting up and coming heavyweight stars. Although he is only six fights deep into his career, there is a lot of buzz around what he can achieve in the sport, with many touting him as a future world champion. He returns to the ring this weekend, as he faces off against Simon Vallily, which will be his toughest test yet.
“Finding motivation hasn't been an issue really, I know this is my first big test & I'm on one of the biggest shows of the year due to everything that’s been going on. Everyone’s going to be itching to get their boxing fix back, fans or fighters."
Vallily himself is a former Commonwealth Games medallist and has recently moved up from cruiserweight.
“I think this is the first time I will have someone who is a real competitor in front of me and test me. When someone realises it's their last chance, they are more dangerous because they have nothing to lose. If he wins, he can really kick on, so it's up to him to make sure he is prepared.
I'll be able to show just how good I am, everyone’s seen me on the front foot but I’m at my best when someone is coming towards me and I can counter. This is the measuring stick for me, I need to prove that I can through a real fight with my hand raised. I’m not just here to fight journeyman and take the easy fights, I’m here to prove my worth.”
There has been a lot of talk in the build up to this fight, especially from Vallily who has been vocal about stopping Wardley early.
“Laughter is my reaction. I don’t mind though, its all part of the game and I wouldn’t expect any less from him. I don’t take any offence to it everyone who fights is going to say the same thing, its just part of the game. He doesn’t know me personally, so I don’t take it personally, he can do whatever he needs to do to get amped up for the fight.
I don’t think he believes it at all. Just look at his record, I’ve had half the amount of fights and I’ve still knocked out more people. Its not in his game, he doesn’t have that punch power or technique. If you’re not a powerful cruiserweight, you’re not going to suddenly put on a stone and become a powerful puncher.”
The Ipswich-born star sees the fight ending in a stoppage for himself. Although he will be in no rush to do so, picking him apart before ending it in an emphatic style. This fight is also for the vacant English Title, which can help to project fighters onto bigger and better things.
“The fight will end by stoppage, there’s no way he makes it to the final bell. He’s shown that he will gas out if you keep a high pace and pressure, that’s something ill be aiming to do. I’ll take my time and when I start to see gaps, I will pick him apart. He’s got quite a solid jab that’s quite fast and we'll have to stand with each other and see who’s going to get their jab off first. He’s also well-schooled and was a good amateur with a wealth of experience to rely on but eventually, he will crumble.
Winning the English title is a great milestone. It throws me into that real contender with the names that are up there, the likes of Joe Joyce, Daniel Dubois, Nathan Gorman and Dave Allen. It just means there will be bigger fights and bigger challenges for me.”
This fight card signifies the beginning of Matchroom’s Fight Camp, a great stage for Fabio to excel and show just how good he is. Previously, he has perhaps not gained the mainstream exposure, although come Saturday night there will be thousands of eyes on him.
“The exposure is massive for me, I think that is something that’s been missing. A lot of the boys ahead of me have a lot of exposure because they were in the GB squad or had big fights. That’s the one thing missing for me as a boxer, where people know my name. That’s why its so important for me to be on this show, there’s going to be so many people watching and I can announce myself to new fans.
Matchroom have been great for me, doing their bit to promote me which is something they don’t have to do. Its great that they’re doing that, I’m very thankful and I’m in the best hands with them and if I had a choice, I’d be with them anyway.”
In the early stages of a fighter’s career, a fighter can concentrate on themselves, and sharpen their own tools without too much concentration on their opponent. Wardley understands that he is still far from the finished product, although there is confidence that it will come.
“At the moment my primary focus is looking after me and making sure that I'm covering all the bases that I need to. I’m doing the right thing for me and focusing on my style, things I need to improve and get better. I've not really been involved in that long so there's still so much for me to work on and figure out. I just need to clean up my game, I’m good at a lot of things and I just need to tighten them up. My movement, footwork and my punches sometimes need o to be a little bit cleaner, but I have all the components."
That’s not something I can rush, it’s a day by day process that I need to implement and get better at and make sure I’m improving. I think my athleticism has helped me start faster than others would. But eventually, if you rely on that you will get found out, I still have a lot to learn. I can use those skills to my advantage, but I still need to use my boxing skills as well.”
Sometimes hype behind a fighter can derail their career, due to the intense pressure and scrutiny. It is clear that despite the media interest, his feet are still firmly planted in the ground.
“I don’t really think about it. It’s great for people to say that and have that hype around me but I don’t take it into consideration. If you look at this on paper, he should win. He is the GB amateur with a wealth of experience in the pro ranks and won the Commonwealth medal. In reality, it’s the other way round and people are expecting me to win comfortably, which is great. I don’t take any pressure from it and just take it all in my stride.”
He is currently managed by elite heavyweight Dillian Whyte and is often referred to as his protégé. His guidance and experience have already proved invaluable to Wardley’s career, with them still being in regular communication despite Whyte being in camp abroad.
“Me and Dillian talk daily, obviously he’s away in Portugal training but we still check-in and make sure camp is going well. It's good to have someone like Dill, who’s also training for a fight and working things out around sparring etc.
We can problem solve together about how to get over certain situations, its been good. He’s always giving me advice, little tricks and ideas. There’s not been one main thing, but he’s always there if I need anything. Its really valuable to have someone like that around you.”
Arguably due to the success of Floyd Mayweather Jr, there is now pressure on the modern-day fighter to preserve their undefeated record. For Wardley, he is excited and feels as though he can gain respect by being in larger and more testing fights.
“Its becoming less important, Joshua recently lost and so has Dillian. Chisora has resurrected his career and is still a big star despite losing fights. That’s better than being like Wilder and fighting 40 journeymen and then claiming you’re undefeated. If you’re in testing fights, people will respect you. UFC has been great for that, all their top contenders fight each other.”
Pre-lockdown, British boxing was in the best place it has been in years. This was in part due to the impressive heavyweight scene that has emerged. There are now numerous elite fighters in the weight class, making it an exciting time to be entering it.
“It’s massive and I’m thankful for it. There has been a resurrection of boxing as a whole and British heavyweight boxing has the majority of the stars. Its always the weight everyone wants to watch, and the more buzz is better for me. At this moment I am just below those mid to high level fighters, they have a lot more experience than me, its not a process you can rush.”