Looking to clean up: Fabio Wardley interview
Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Unbeaten heavyweight Fabio Wardley speaks candidly to Sonia Randev about growing up with a single mother, burying his resentment towards his father and his ambitions to clean out the domestic heavyweight division...
A troublesome child, who spent the majority of his childhood without his father and was raised by his mother, the path into boxing has not been an easy one for Fabio Wardley.
From wayward teen to fighting on Sky Sports; I spoke to the 25-year-old heavyweight about his career to date...
BM: We often hear of boxers that turned to the sport because they were always getting into trouble – was this the same for you?
FW: It may seem my story is similar to other boxers or someone reading this would be like here we go again, another boxer that turned their life around but I wasn’t really the academic type growing up. I was in trouble at school. I didn’t have my father around as he left us when I was five. My mum single handily raised me. So I was always getting in trouble and hanging around the wrong places. The one thing I did feel that I had going for me was sport. At school I participated in all sports. Rugby, athletics, you name it, i played it. And I was good. I was passionate about participation in sport. The competitiveness and adrenaline rush. I was an avid footballer from a young age. Just your normal thing, playing football with mates, joining a few teams. I started playing twice a week but got a few bad ankle injuries. By the time my ankles had healed the passion or drive to push myself into a football career just wasn’t there. I knew my ankles wouldn’t be the same. I got into the Ipswich academy at 13 but I didn’t take it seriously. I think I just enjoyed playing as I knew a few lads at the academy. It wasn’t like I was going to commit my life to it. The coaches knew this. I was a rowdy kid but they did bring a sense of stability and discipline which is something I needed at that time in my life. My mum was great but a male role model was missing. I lasted a year and then dropped out.
BM: What is your relationship with your father like now?
FW: It has always been me and my mum. I was a lot to handle back then and she still did her best and still goes over and above for me now. My real father left when I was two and lives in America. I guess the whole fighting and getting up to mischief was down to not having my dad around. I was angry with him and watched my mother struggle. We were poor. I felt like if my father had been around, then maybe things would have been different back then. I have a relationship with my father now I've gone out to see him. I learned to accept that he wasn’t there and started to cope with his absence better as my mum met someone else who without him, I still think I would be on the wrong path. My step dad is my best mate and helped get me on the right track. I didn’t see eye to eye with him when my mum first got with him but he grounded me and brought much needed discipline.
I was out in Miami a while back training and my father flew out to see me. The years of resentment towards him have gone and it’s better to have some kind of relationship with him. He hasn’t been to any of my fights yet though!
BM: So what you led you to the ring?
FW: It’s funny because I didn’t think I would become a boxer. It’s not something that was at the top of my mind. I spent time in gyms, just basic training. And I found myself enjoying the training. It was actually a white collar gym. At the time I wasn’t even thinking about taking part in any sort of boxing event. When they asked me to sign up, I was like: why not? So I did and won my first fight and it was that feeling of my arm being raised as the winner at the end. People cheering. It hit something within me and I was like I really don’t want this feeling to stop. I had four fights and then I decided to turn pro. With hindsight looking back it may have been too early for me. But the opportunity came and I felt that if I didn’t take it then, I might not get the chance again. [Early on] I had a frustrating time as fights kept getting cancelled. Later I formed a good friendship with Dillian Whyte. We had sparred a few times and I had trained with him down at Loughborough. Even before I started working with him he always checked up on me, asked me how things were going. I respected that as he always remembered me sparring him in prep for his fight against Robert Helenius, I think he knew that I would change my schedule to come down and help him prepare for his fights. So I signed with Dillian and it’s the best thing to happen to my career.
BM: Are you happy with the pace your career is going at now?
FW: Absolutely. Even with setbacks, I still felt the training and sparring put in has helped me to get me to that level I am at now. Dillian knows I'm hungry and eager and has eased me into the heavyweight division at exactly the right pace for me.
BM: What’s 2020 looking like for you?
FW: Well I first would like to reschedule my English title fight [againsr Simon Vallily]. I want to really clean up the heavyweight division domestically first. If I have to wait then I would ideally like a warm up fight either in March or April, or maybe both!
BM: Dave Allen recently mentioned your name, how did you feel about that?
FW: I get on well with Dave and respect him. I felt honoured that he mentioned my name with some good fighters. If that fight takes place then so be it. Especially if it’s for the British title. Basically I will fight anyone just to get that much closer to achieving my dreams.