Josh Wale – Cinderella Man ready for his big chance

Josh Wale
Josh Wale

Without the need for exaggeration or hyperbole, Josh Wale’s boxing story is one packed with inspiration.

A perennial nearly man, he took enough knocks to force a handful of fighters into retirement, never mind just one.

Josh Wale

Josh Wale

But quitting is not the nature of the very definition of a fighting man.

The persistence, drive and determination of the Barnsley fighter has never waned - and it has paid off.

On Friday night, in the east of France, close to the Swiss border, Wale will challenge for the European bantamweight title.

For someone whose career goal was to win a British title, he is close to being in the dreamland of international honours and a genuine chance at a world championship opportunity.

"It's a dream come true," he told The Star.

"It's like a Cinderella Man story, or whatever you want to call it.

"Not many people two or three years ago would have put me in this situation.

"It's paid off for me. At one time it looked like it wasn't going to.

"But I've kept going and kept going and I'm getting my rewards now."

When he turned professional at the tender age of 18 following a glittering amateur career, Wale was of the most exciting prospects in British boxing.

Blitzing through opponents, he won the Central Area title in only his fifth fight and fought for the English title in his tenth.

He built himself up as one of the top fighters in the country at the lower weights.

Fast hands, power and granite toughness, Wale was always a viable and credible contender.

It led to a string of opportunities which it was not in his nature to turn down.

Fights against Kid Galahad, Stuart Hall, Gavin McDonnell, Jazza Dickens and Leigh Wood came, all with prizes up for grabs, all in the away corner, all with the odds stacked against Wale.

All brought defeat, all brought rebuilding but none halted his determination.

"I wouldn't say it's been a hard career because I've enjoyed every minute of it," he said.

"But I've took fights away from home and I've done it the hard way.

"I wouldn't have done it any other way now I've got here.

"It's hard when you're going through it but I'm grateful I have got on that path.

"I think I've boxed about six kids who have either fought for a world title or won one.

"It's a who's who of kids that I've fought.

"It's made me who I am.

"If someone offers you a fight, you're a professional boxer and at the end of the day it's what you do.

"I live and breathe boxing and I've always thought that my dedication and lifestyle would pay off eventually.

"My dad, my coach has always believed in me and now we've hooked up with Stefy Bull, it's the missing part of the jigsaw that we needed."

That 'hooking up' with manager, trainer and promoter Bull was a considerable turning point in Wale's career.

Both he and dad and trainer Mick sought help from Bull in a bid to get him over the hurdle he was so desperate to clear.

Bull partly took the reins and his first task was to pull back on them. There would be no more accepting any fight offered - even if that stance was relaxed for chance against up-and-comer Gamal Yafai.

"We had the work ethic and everything but we needed a manager who was working for us and guiding us for the best opportunities," he said.

"We're fighting men. If someone offered us a fight and my dad turned it down, I wouldn't speak to him.

"We needed another person to come in and Stefy was the missing part.

"We sat down after the Yafai fight and Stefy said 'your dad has got to carry on working with you because he knows you better than anyone and he gets the best out of you, and you need to go down to bantamweight.'

"We did that and two and a half years later we're undefeated at the weight, we've won the British title, made two defences and now we're fighting for the European title."

His quest for the European crown takes him to the small town of Vesoul, 200 miles east of Paris.

Waiting for him there will be Georges Ory, who won the EU title in March in 12th fight, nine of which have brought victories.

Not only does Wale have the chance at European championship glory, he knows victory would catapult him into the upper reaches of the world rankings.

"Who knows how far I can go," he said. "I'm in the form of my life

"When I got made the mandatory for the European title, it was a dream come true, going from being nowhere to the number one contender for the European title.

"There's only one above the European title and that's the world title.

"I've just got to go and box my best on the night.

"If I do that, I can mix it with anyone.

"It's in his back garden, he's got French TV and promoters behind him.

"I've experienced all that before and it's made me the fighter I am.

"I've been into the lion's den, I've had fans spitting at me, I've had it all and there isn't much I haven't experience.

"I'm ready."

Perhaps the most inspirational chapter in Wale's story is still to come.