Guisborough’s former ABA champion Josh Leather believes he could be the man to ignite Britain’s stagnant light-welterweight division.
The 23 year old former England amateur captain has earned rave reviews whilst racking up six successive wins since joining the profession in September 2013.
After acclimatising to the profession with a quartet of victories over serial losers, the 5ft 10in whirlwind forced a few eyebrows to arch with back-to-back wins over regarded prospects Tommy Carus and Fergus Taylor at the tail end of last year. Both were clearly beaten on points over six rounds.
‘I finally got fights where I could show what I’m capable of. Carus was a southpaw who’d lost just one of seven and Fergus was unbeaten in eight. I learnt a lot fighting both of them,’ acknowledged the talented Tyke who kick starts his 2015 campaign with a six rounder against Sheffield’s useful Ryan Hardy on the huge Echo Arena bill in Liverpool this Saturday night.
‘Every fight I can feel I’m improving and now I want even bigger tests. If I can come through in style on Saturday I’d love to step up to 10 round level and possibly fight for the vacant Northern Area title in my next fight in the summer.’
Young Josh has been leathering the opposition since he first dipped between the ropes alongside twin brother Callum – a national Golden Gloves champion – at the local Ray Hood ABC, aged nine.
He bagged four national titles whilst amassing an impressive 50-17 amateur slate and now intends re-asserting his dominance in the paid sphere.
‘As an amateur I was always very sharp with my hands and now I’m even faster. I’ve always been good with the long shots and I’ve a good jab but since turning pro I’ve gradually started to sit down on my shots better and capitalise on my head movement,’ says the Imran Naeem coached starlet.
‘In the amateurs, I was grafting all day on the roofs then training in the evenings when I was knackered yet still I won the ABAs and boxed international. Now boxing is my whole life. I treat it as a full time job. I train every day with Imran and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot.
‘I’ve been able to go away for quality sparring which really brings me on. I’ve sparred (English super-feather boss) Mitchell Smith and his brother Jez down south and got some quality work with (unbeaten light-middles) Gary Corcoran and Freddie Turner at the West Ham gym. I’ve also been in with (2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist) Josh Taylor.’
Presently, British boxing is awash with more rising prospects than at any time in living memory. What, I asked, was likely to make Leather stand out above the rest.
‘Style wise, I see myself as similar to Joe Calzaghe,’ he responded.
‘I can box front foot or back foot, I can work inside and I’ve got very fast hands and feet. Hopefully, I can bring excitement for the fans.’
Coach Naeem predicts a very bright and prosperous future: ‘Josh has got all the attributes to be a top professional. He’s got an excellent jab, quick hands, a tight defence and his foot work is really improving.
‘Now he’s sitting down on his shots and starting to hurt people. He’s developed in so many areas and he’s like a sponge when it comes to absorbing new stuff.
‘He’s a rookie pro and I’m a rookie trainer but we’ve got a great bond and I’ve a very experienced network such as Mike Marsden, Peter Cope and (matchmaker) Jason McCrory who I can call upon for advice.’
The domestic 140lb class is presently in a state of transition with fellow Yorkie Tyrone Nurse soon to contest the vacant British throne with Swansea’s Chris Jenkins and Derby’s oft-beaten Dave Ryan scheduled to defend his Commonwealth strap against Essex boy John Wayne Hibbert next month.
‘That’ll be a good fight. I saw Hibbert in his last fight and he looked very strong but I think Ryan beats him. I’ve always believed speed and sharpness can overcome strength and power,’ says Leather.
‘But I think Bradley Saunders and Jack Catterall are already better than all of them. A fight between those two would be very interesting.
‘I hear Catterall’s been sparring over at the Mayweather Gym in Vegas and I did a bit of sparring with Brad before I turned pro. He shades it for me. I was born in Middlesbrough and Brad’s from Sedgefield so, down the line, a showdown between us could be a huge fight for the area. I’ll fight anyone in the light-welter division.’
But all that is further down the line. Right now, the lad with the blistering fists and Duracell work rate is content to just continue his development and broaden his profile.
‘This year, I intend to keep busy, keep learning and push on up the rankings,’ he concludes.
‘Hardy’s an awkward lad who’s been eight and ten rounds several times with good opposition like Adil Anwar, Adam Little, Liam Taylor and Tom Stalker.
Hopefully, come Saturday night, I can excite the crowd, display my boxing skills and show the British fans what Josh Leather is all about.’
Tickets are available from the Liverpool Echo Arena Box Office on 0844 8000 400 or echoarena.com and Eventim on 0844 249 1000 or eventim.co.uk
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