Ricky Hatton fan Josh Holmes rubbing shoulders with his idol

Joshua Holmes in action against Dylan Draper
Joshua Holmes in action against Dylan Draper

Super featherweight boxer Josh Holmes has revealed that he would watch highlight reels of Ricky Hatton on loop in the hours leading up to an amateur fight.

The former Yorkshire area champion, who won 24 of his 29 contests before turning over, admitted to being glued to his phone en route to the venue, watching ‘The Hitman’ in action.

Footage of the popular unified light-welterweight world champion, considered to be Britain’s best at 140lbs, was like rocket fuel for Holmes, who had been looking to feed his adrenaline ahead of his own battle to come.

Hatton’s dogged triumph over Kostya Tszyu in Manchester - the most famous victory on his CV - would have the endorphins bouncing and the signature blow that ended José Luis Castillo’s challenge would get the heart racing.

His success was the motivational tool that inspired Holmes, a one-time Eastburn ABC novice, to become national champion as he beat Jerome Campbell on a split decision to win the 60kg final of the England Boxing Senior Development Championships.

At that moment their worlds couldn’t be any further apart.

Hatton had been a two-weight world champion, winning 43 times in a row prior to his first career loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Nevada.

Holmes, on the other hand, was barely on the radar, his path still undecided. However, the 23-year-old’s monumental growth under Robert Rimmer at the Phoenix Camp has seen their two worlds collide.

“I’ve been down training at Ricky Hatton’s gym,” said Holmes. “It’s a pretty mad experience. Just being next to him and listening to him speak is quite surreal. I used to watch his highlight reels when I was on my way to an amateur fight.

“I used to look up to him, I still do.

“He’s the one that got me in to boxing, he really inspired me a lot.

“I loved his aggression, that’s what got me psyched up before I went in to the ring.

“He had a come forward style and landed a lot of big body shots. When I stopped my opponents as an amateur it was mostly the result of a body shot. His style really helped me.”

Holmes added: “It helped me progress as an amateur so it’s crazy that I’m rubbing shoulders with him in the gym. I’ve picked up a few things from him and he’s good to be around.

“He comes across really well. Whenever he’s been down he’s always laughing and joking and telling tales. We are always having a good laugh and bouncing off each other.

“It’s good because it’s showing the level that I’m at now, it shows that I’m progressing and moving in the right direction.”

Holmes has been preparing for all eventualities ahead of his fourth professional contest against Zimbabwean Taka Bembere at King George’s Hall tomorrow.

He’s been experimenting with different styles, adapting to unfamiliar scenarios and thinking outside of the box in sparring sessions with Ibrahim Nadim and Sean Fennell.

Holmes, who has out-pointed Naheem Chaudhry, Dylan Draper and Edward Bjorklund so far, said: “I’ve been sparring Ibrahim Nadim, one of Hatton’s new lads, then he came to our gym with Sean Fennell. They are totally different fighters.

“Ibrahim is very awkward with fast hands and is quite rangey. I haven’t faced that kind of sparring before so that’s good.

“Sparring is all about learning, you make your mistakes there and then instead of on fight night. You’ve got to be able to adapt to different styles quite quickly.”

He added: “A lot of fighters don’t like mixing it up, but I like it. I think it’s got to be done in camp. It’ll help you improve because you’ve got to change your style to suit your opponent.

“That can happen in a fight. You’ve got to be prepared, have that ability to switch it up and be ready for anything. Nothing can catch you off guard or by surprise that way.

“I’m feeling confident and I can’t wait. I’m looking at ending the year on a high, I want to show the best of me and showcase my skills.”