Josh Warrington hopes Mike Tyson study can deliver Cristiano Ronaldo results

Josh Warrington has 30 wins from 30 fights during 11 years in professional boxing
Josh Warrington has 30 wins from 30 fights during 11 years in professional boxing

World champion Josh Warrington hopes time spent studying Mike Tyson will lead him on to the kind of match-winning moments synonymous with Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo.

Like so many others during the coronavirus lockdown, IBF world featherweight champion Warrington has devoted hours to podcasts, reading and self-improvement.

In the latest BBC Radio 5 Live Boxing podcast, Warrington opened up about his fears of retirement and explained what he hopes his recent dive into the Tyson archive may inspire when he is next allowed to box.

"His angles for punches were unbelievable," said the 29-year-old Leeds fighter.

"He's stepping side to side and it's how ferocious he is when he's doing it. A few to the body, a change of angle, up to the head, change angle. It's a masterpiece and the technical side of it is impressive. I was in the gym last night working on my body punches and trying to throw them like the way he did."

Tyson became the youngest heavyweight world champion in history in 1986 at the age of 20, the high point in a career that served up countless controversies both in and out of the ring.

In discussing Tyson with Warrington, BBC boxing correspondent Mike Costello said perhaps only boxing fans can understand how the American sometimes "made violence seem graceful".

"In his first fight with Frank Bruno, in the middle of what looks to everyone else like a slugfest and mayhem, Tyson just nudges Bruno's elbow aside and makes room for the uppercut that pretty much finishes it," said Costello.

"In that intense moment he found that presence of mind to create that opening."

Warrington, who hopes to fight for another world title at featherweight this year, replied: "That is difficult to do, people don't realise. To the casual eye in a fight, arms are going here there and everywhere.

"The fighters at the very top level, that's the next-level stuff. As a boxer you really appreciate the art form.

"In the heat of action they are throwing combinations or defending themselves and then bang, they come up with something. It's like a Cristiano Ronaldo of the football world, that little something that can win a football match, a flick, a shimmy or a feint."

AP McCoy chats and the 'scary' proposition

Warrington had hoped for a big unification contest in the US this summer but admits he may only get to fight once in 2020 given the current freeze on boxing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

He has been able to use a private gym during the government lockdown and while not training or studying Tyson, says he has spent more time with his partner and two daughters.

Without the natural sporting target and motivation a fight date provides, Costello says many boxers like Warrington are in some ways experiencing a preview of what life may be like when retirement comes.

"I am at the very pinnacle and in listening to your podcasts and others and listening to fighters not in the sport anymore I have realised it doesn't last forever," adds Warrington, who has been a professional since 2009.

"That scares me. I have to be honest, retirement scares me."

Costello was once told by former world champion Barry McGuigan that the adulation sporting success provides is "a class-A drug".

And Warrington says he gained insight into the void that could materialise when he hangs up his gloves during a discussion with retired jockey AP McCoy and former rugby league player Jamie Jones-Buchanan at last year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.

"Jamie knew he was done, his body was shot and he had emptied the tank," Warrington says.

"AP still misses competing and says nothing will fill that void. I don't want to empty the tank as boxing is a brutal sport but at the same time I don't want to be like AP as I could see it in his eyes that the void particularly hurt him.

"At 29 I am still young but as a featherweight you don't go on forever.

"We get scheduled a fight date three months down the line. Say you get a date for May, you don't even think about March and April. The years fly because of that but you have something to aim for.

"The date comes, it's euphoria, a release of emotions and then you come down. You have a few weeks being human and you're ready to go again. What scares me is when it's the last time, you have your break and then get back in the gym and there would be nothing to aim for.

"It's a funny one but it will happen eventually."