Fabio Wardley relishing AJ support slot as he prepares for massive year ahead

British heavyweight Fabio Wardley believes Anthony Joshua remains a massive name in the sport and says it will be a pleasure to begin a big year as his chief support on Saturday.

Ipswich-born Wardley will aim to extend his excellent knockout record when he faces American veteran Michael Polite-Coffie on the undercard of Joshua’s comeback bout with Jermaine Franklin at O2 Arena.

Wardley claimed the British title with a strong showing against Nathan Gorman in November and is excited about what 2023 has in store.

“Yeah AJ’s still a massive name,” Dillian Whyte-managed Wardley told the PA news agency.

“It is still a massive card. It is a privilege for me to be on it and not even just on it but to be chief support to him.

“It is probably one of the best positions you can be in for an up-and-coming boxer like myself, to be on the undercard of an AJ or Dillian, or a Tyson Fury because being one under those top guys means you are getting the most exposure and views on you.

“The initial plan when we started out the year was to defend the British outright. To defend that three times, tick that off and have a good year in front of UK fans.

“The first hurdle of that, the first fight we wanted to put together for the year, we haven’t been able to find anyone who is ready and willing to have a go for the British belt.

“So, we’ve had to pause that for half a second but I want to stay busy, keep active and push again for it later in the year.

“Everyone loves a good tear-up for the British belt, especially at heavyweight so there will always be appealing fights.”

Wardley (15-0, 14KOs) was full of praise for the guidance Whyte has provided since he signed with him in 2019.

It has seen the undefeated heavyweight in action at Wembley Arena and O2 Arena on numerous occasions during a six-year professional career that has earned him English and British honours.

Plenty are eager to take the British title off the 28-year-old with Frazer Clarke, Solomon Dacres and David Adeleye among the many to recently call him out, but he knows he must first deal with ex-Marine Polite-Coffie (13-3, 10KOs).

Wardley added: “He is not going to roll over and take it easy. He will bring it and stick it on me.

“We’ll have to be switched on and make sure I am fighting fire with fire in the right moments.

“I have kept it quite lineal so far. I have gone the English, gone the British and we did have a look at Commonwealth and Europeans.

“I am happy with the progression of my career. I am 15 fights in, a couple of years now into the game so I am moving at a good pace that I am settled with.

“I am still 28 so I have a number of years to go before I really hit my peak and I still have some check marks I need to tick off, like going the rounds further in fights, so along this ride we’ll just try to tick them off.

“Frazer is obviously quite an inevitable name and we are going to clash horns at some point.

“Whether it be more recently or later in the year, he seems like one of the prime candidates and has said numerous times he wants to have a go for the British belt. It seems like that would go together pretty well.”

If Saturday goes to plan, there is every chance of Wardley fighting Clarke on the undercard of Joshua against another British heavyweight this summer.

While talk swirls around Joshua and Fury, Wardley believes a rematch between his manager Whyte and the former champion would make sense.

“The Tyson Fury fight with AJ is something people talk about a lot but the more realistic one, the easier one to get made and also the next progression of AJ’s comeback phase is Dillian,” Wardley said.

“It just makes the most sense and it will always be entertaining. The UK public would get behind that fight massively so I think it is easily done and one people want to see.”