Stoke welterweight Josh McLaren holds the ominous distinction of being the last fighter that legendary matchmaker Dean Powell signed to the Warren axis before his tragic death.
Since debuting in late June, the 6ft 2in Staffs stylist has shown promise registering a brace of comprehensive points wins over Lithuania’s Artuaras Zbarauskas and Brummie centurion Jason Nesbit.
And the 23-year-old will be hoping to advance further up the ladder when he takes on Cardiff’s Gareth Piper on the big Liverpool Echo Arena show on Saturday 7th December headlined by Derry Mathews challenging Stephen Ormond for his WBO European lightweight crown; Liam Smith defending his British Light-Middleweight title against Mark Thompson; Paul Butler defending his WBO Intercontinental Super-Flyweight title against Ruben Montoya, plus Joe Selkirk and Ronnie Heffron challenging for the Vacant WBO European Light-Middleweight title.
Remaining tickets are available from the Liverpool Echo Arena Box Office on 0844 8000 400 or online at www.echoarena.com
Boxing writer Glynn Evans caught up with McLaren to find out more about his background and career as a boxer.
Name: Josh McLaren
Family background: I’m one of three. I’ve an older brother and a younger sister. I’m from a big boxing family. Both my dad and granddad boxed amateur and my brother had ten bouts as an amateur novice. My cousin Kieron, who I’m pretty close to, won the Midland juniors a few times as an amateur and he’s recently turned over to the pros.
I still live at home in Stoke. My girlfriend is away at university. No kids yet.
Trade: I deliver P.E in schools. I take the PPA cover and also do a little bit of work as a teaching assistant. I’m in the process of taking over a franchise which delivers football skills.
Nickname: ‘Ice Man’. The local paper wrote that I was ‘ice cool’ and it took off from there.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? Because I knew me dad had boxed, I’d been interested for as far back as I can remember. I’d always be putting his old gloves on and be having play fights out the back on the trampoline.
I only started boxing when I was 15 and dad began to coach at an amateur gym. Previously, I’d been heavily into my football. Around the age of 14, I was on Derby County’s books for a season. I was a dot, really tiny and unfortunately they released me.
What do you recall of your amateur career? The gym dad coached at was called Queensberry ABC and I stayed there right through my amateur career.
However, between the ages of 16-19, I attended the Hopwood Hall Boxing Academy in Manchester. The coaches there, Alwyn Belcher and Jimmy Barker, have turned out some top talent over the years like (future pro champions) Don Broadhurst, Martin Gethin, Gary Woolcombe….
I went as a novice but really benefited from the one-to one coaching I got three times a day with such fantastic trainers. They remain the biggest influence on my boxing.
I think I finished up having 51 amateur bouts and I won 35. As a junior, I won a national Golden Gloves Belt for novices with fewer than ten bouts then I got beaten in the Junior ABA final by (future Commonwealth Games gold medallist) Iain Weaver. At the time, Iain was a bit too cute. I also lost on points to Gary Corcoran, another good kid who’s undefeated as a pro.
In the seniors, I boxed for England in Wales but lost in the Fight of the Night to Craig Evans (now an unbeaten pro on the Frank Warren roster). We had a real ‘tear up’. Being handed that England vest remains my highlight, a proud moment.
I also represented Staffs or the Midland Area (representative squads) in Denmark and Sweden. In Sweden I got beaten by a Dane called Jahja Ahmed, who was number 14 in the world. I learned a lot from him.
I also won the Midland ABA title and was the first from Stoke to achieve that since Scott Lawton 13 years before. Scott had also boxed from the Queenberry club. In the next round I lost a hometown decision to Maxie Hughes in Darlington.
I really enjoyed the amateurs, not just the fights but the discipline it gave me to lead a better life. I guess I could’ve achieved more if it hadn’t been for a few dubious decisions but you can’t look back in anger.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? The controversial loss to Maxie caused me to fall out of love with the amateur game. I boxed on for another year without really ‘wanting it’ any more. I knew I was too good to stop but I’d lost a bit of enthusiasm.
Boxing pro was always my ambition and I had the self belief that I could make a go of it so took a leap of faith.
Tell us about your back up team: I’m promoted by Queenberry Promotions. Apparently, I’m the last one who Dean Powell arranged to sign so it’d be nice to do something good for his memory. Whenever we spoke, Dean was always very helpful and ‘happy go lucky’.
I’m managed by Mick Carney and coached by Lyndon Newbon who previously worked with (champions) Chris Edwards and Scott Lawton. Lyndon and I have a good trusting relationship. He doesn’t try to change what I’m good at, just enhances it and adds little bits and bobs.
Shrewsbury Town’s goalkeeper Joe Anyon helps me with my strength and conditioning. He does a lot of explosive leg work which provides a nice strong base. He works on specific muscle groups and it’s really hard. I tend to leave his sessions walking like John Wayne!
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? At the moment, I train at the gym on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights plus Saturday morning. I have Wednesday and Sunday off.
I get to the gym around 4p.m. The schedule varies depending on whether there’s sparring available but a routine session would involve four rounds of skipping and a bit of shadow boxing to loosen up. Then I’d do pads and the bar-bag. We do a lot of technical stuff as well as fitness work such as defensive drills, practising counters. We finish with conditioning work and the circuits.
I normally take a four mile run at night after the gym, but I’ll chuck in a longer run or sprints every now and then to vary things. On Saturday morning we do interval work.
I most enjoy the pads. You feel amazing after coming through a really hard session knowing it’s in the bank. I least enjoy sprints. I’m actually good at them but I get very nervous because I’m really competitive and have to win every race!
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I’m orthodox but I can switch. I suppose I’m more of a measured boxer who applies pressure with my feet and counters opponent’s leads. I’m good at judging distance. My jab, which I neglected in the amateurs, is now my most effective shot but I can have a ‘tear up’, if I need to.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? Everything. You never stop adding and improving. I think I’m quite good in all areas but can certainly still improve in every one.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? The pros isn’t as rushed. Starting out, I needed to slow my feet down. Also, there’s a different emphasis. The amateurs is about scoring points, the pros is about controlling and dictating the fight.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? (Recent world amateur bronze medallist) Anthony Fowler. I sparred him at the GB set up in Sheffield. He had a good style that impressed me. He’s also really strong and starting to knock opponents out.
All time favourite fighter: It’s a tie between Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto.
All time favourite fight: The first Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios fight, when Rios stopped him, sticks in my mind.
Which current match would you most like to see made? Saul Alvarez against Gennady Golovkin at middleweight. I’d pick Alvarez.
What is your routine on fight day? I allow my body to wake up when it’s ready. No alarms. You need the best night’s sleep you can get. After that, my main focus is to stay relaxed and try not to think about the fight.
For my debut, I actually worked on the day. Last time, up in Sheffield, I walked around the city and the shops. I won’t sit in the house ‘stewing’, wasting nervous energy. I have to be active.
In the changing rooms, I’m pretty calm. I’ll get my shorts on about four fights before I’m due to box and take my time with everything. I’m pretty chilled and laid back.
Entrance music: Last time it was ‘Sail’ by AWOL Nation. I first heard it on a UFC bill.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? I’ve not thought too much about titles just yet but, ultimately, I want to be a world champion. I wouldn’t waste my time if I didn’t think it was possible.
I always try my best at whatever I do and I‘m in the right hands with Frank Warren. I trust him fully to push me forward when the time’s right. A title before the end of 2014 would be nice.
How do you relax? My missus is away at uni in Liverpool so I go up there on weekends. Until recently, I played Sunday league soccer but now I just play a bit of casual 5-a-side. I go the cinema a lot, play Grand Theft Auto and enjoy a game of tennis in the summer.
Football team: Man United. David Beckham was my childhood hero.
Read: The ‘Twilight’ books. I’m also reading ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ by Robert Greene.
Music: Hip-hop and rap. My favourite artists are Odd Future, a group of rappers.
Films/TV: I like films that are fast and furious. My favourites are the superheroes, Transformers or Marvel. I hardly watch tele, just films.
Aspiration in life: To headline a big show in Vegas.