A burning desire to keep achieving more and the inspiration of his dad is what keeps Josh Wale fighting.
Now in his 13th year as a professional, Wale can look back on a rollercoaster career of ups and downs – but he feels he can hit one of the biggest highs tonight at a sold-out Metrodome.
Defeating Lichfield’s Brad Foster, nine years his junior, would win Wale the British super-bantamweight belt and ensure he becomes the first Barnsley man to win the title at two weights, having been bantamweight champion.
Fighters like the now-retired George Groves, who Wale is the same age as and boxed as a schoolboy, have had their careers as professionals bookended by the fighter from Brampton. The 30-year-old simply loves the fight game but his devotion to dad and trainer Mick Wale is even greater.
Mick has tumours along his spine which should have confined him to a wheelchair years ago. Despite the intense pain, he manages to make it to the gym most nights and has overseen Josh’s career from the age of eight.
“I think there is only Ricky Burns still boxing at a high level from before I started as a pro,” Josh said.
“Everything is going well now but I have had it hard in my career for so long. But what I’ve been through is nothing compared to my dad. I have lost razor-thin decisions to world-class fighters and it’s my dad who has kept me going. I am proud of what I have done and I’m still training now at 30 like I was at 18.
“Going up four pounds in weight might not sound a lot but it is to boxers. I have spent most of my career at super-bantamweight. I know my body and I could have still hung around at bantamweight but the opportunity to win the title at two weights is one that really appealed to me.”
Wale will also become the first Barnsley man to fight for a British title in his hometown tonight. Previous champions Charlie Hardcastle, Chris Saunders and Robbie Barrett all lost their first defences of the belt out of the town. This will be Wale’s sixth contest for the Lord Lonsdale belt but his first on home soil.
Wale added: “What I have achieved has been good but I want this. The British title brings out the best in me and to become a two-weight, two-time British champion in Barnsley would be a fairytale. I am immensely proud to be headlining in my hometown and of what I have come through to get here.
“People have written me off and thought this day would never come. This will be my sixth British title fight. It is amazing really. I am getting more support now than ever before. I’ve sold approaching 500 tickets and I know people bring mates but, if you lined them all up, I’m sure I would know the majority of them.”
Wale knows not to look past Foster and can look back on his own experiences of being the up-and-comer in the away corner. He knows what is coming.
“I used to study all my opponents but, over my career, I’ve realised that it is more about being on my A game. If I am at my best, I counteract what they bring. “I am still outtraining everyone in the gym – even though they’re a lot younger than me. “I still have grit and determination and the hunger to go on.”