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Be inspired every day with Living North

Meet the Yorkshire Boxer Fighting Against Knife Crime in Armley

Boxer Josh Wisher who
June 2023
Reading time 4 Minutes

As well as being an elite boxing athlete, Yorkshire's 24-year-old Josh Wisher is fighting for a good cause by leading an anti-knife crime crusade in his area and opening a new gym for the community

Based in Armley, Josh Wisher wants boxing fans to remember 2023 as the year he established himself as a major contender. A former Farnley Academy student and committed Leeds United supporter, he had an exhibition fight in November 2021, with his first professional match in February 2022 against Vaidas Baiciauskas. Josh faced Seamus Devlin in May 2022 and Gennadij Krajevskij in November at Elland Road, with comfortable wins against both experienced opponents, and will box Egidijus Zukas at the same venue at the end of June 2023.

I’ve been constantly improving, becoming a more mature boxer developing a personal style,’ says Josh. ‘I’m delighted when I demonstrate everything we’ve worked on in training and the advice given by my corner. Like any competitive sport, boxing is a learning experience. Boxers must eliminate any bad habits and be critical of their own performance. It’s mastering the technicalities which brings wins. I’ve learnt something new from each fight and I’m grateful to my promoter Mark Bateson for arranging challenging bouts enabling me to build my career. Above all I’m grateful to have the best possible coach in my dad Phil.’

Last September, Josh gave up a secure job to set up and manage a new gym in Armley called The Ministry of Boxing. ‘It’s been a rollercoaster year, juggling intensive fight training and running The Ministry, as well as gaining my personal trainer and gym manager qualifications’ says Josh, ‘but we’re proud of what we’ve achieved and are delighted now to have an excellent attendance of over a hundred different people at weekly classes, mostly adult men but with specific groups for women, younger children and teenagers. Helping people develop general fitness and boxing skills is what I most enjoy. Boxing is great for mental health and social skills, and some youngsters are starting their own boxing journey at The Ministry, which recently gained official England Boxing affiliation.’

Josh Wisher

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Josh wants to place The Ministry at the heart of the community and does fundraising work for both local and national charities. ‘Last November we sponsored a Remembrance event at Armley War Memorial and held a Box-athon for Children in Need raising over £300,’ Josh explains. ‘I’m Leeds ambassador for CRY, the charity screening young athletes to reveal potentially lethal undiagnosed heart conditions. I’m planning a half marathon with friends for mental health charity MIND in July and a charity fundraising evening in the autumn.’

Two fatal stabbings in Armley earlier this year have galvanised Josh into action to use boxing as a way of building confidence, self-esteem and resilience for both those he describes as ‘identified potential perpetrators’ and others who have been victims of, or witnesses to, crime. ‘I was proud of the lads interviewed at The Ministry by BBC Look North who made clear their negative feelings about the scourge of knife crime and how boxing helps remove any perceived need for knives,’ he says. ‘This has led us to put in bids with relevant authorities to run funded classes for these groups and we’re waiting to hear if we’ve been successful. Anyone who thinks that The Ministry can further strengthen the community is welcome to get in touch.’

But his boxing comes first. ‘I’m competitive and ambitious,’ admits Josh. ‘I’ve now won all my pro bouts decisively. But it’s one fight at a time, and a boxer is only as good as his most recent bout so fight preparation demands exclusive concentration. We call that period camp and it involves loads of running, that’s roadwork, and lots of sparring with a range of boxers to improve skill, stamina and technique. I enjoy the training, the atmosphere at an event, proving what I’m made of in the ring. I’m buzzing when I show I can handle myself, find the courage needed and win. Winning a match doesn’t make you the better person, but it does show that the winner is the tougher fighter physically and mentally, and entertaining. Rewarding the many people in Leeds who believe in me makes it worthwhile. I’m confident that buoyed by so much support in Yorkshire I’ll be able to climb those ranks. Hopefully to the top.’

‘Josh wants to place The Ministry at the heart of the community and does fundraising work for both local and national charities’

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Boxing events at the Leeds United venue are ‘small hall’ shows. The bedrock underpinning professional boxing, they offer younger, relatively unknown fighters the opportunity to build a solid record of achievement. ‘Fans appreciate proximity to the action but it’s expensive to stage,’ says Josh. ‘The onus is solely on home boxers to sell tickets. This is a challenge faced constantly by the approximately 1,100 professional boxers licensed with the British Boxing Board of Control. But it allows us boxers to promote ourselves and develop a local fan base as I’m doing in West Leeds. I’m so grateful to all who turn out to support me, and to my business and personal sponsors who make it all possible.’

Josh is keen to invite local people to invest in his potential through sponsorship. ‘I’ve got a few sponsors but need more to develop my career fully,’ says Josh. ‘I’m always excited to show that I have the skill, strength, determination and courage to improve and succeed. Boxing is life enhancing, it’s the sweet science and I’m the sweetest of scientists.’

To keep up with Josh’s work and boxing follow him on social media @joshwisherboxing.

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