Boxer Josh Wisher

Josh Wisher: Boxing True

by James Bovington

LEEDS-BASED BOXER JOSH WISHER TALKS BOXING, MENTAL ILLNESS, AND HOW WINNING IS ALL PART OF THE GAME!

Feature photo by: Ali Alzie Aljabiry

Mention the name Josh Wisher to people in his Armley community, and you’ll find he’s become quite well known since opening his boxing gym, The Ministry of Boxing, in the autumn of 2022. He is widely acknowledged as a positive masculine role model for local youth as much for his community work as for his skill as a tough and courageous professional boxer. “I was invited to open new facilities at the local leisure centre and help switch on the Xmas lights,” quipped Wisher, “so I’m doing something right.”

Josh Wisher gave up a secure job in plastics fabrication to create The Ministry. “It was a rollercoaster juggling intensive fight training with running the gym and gaining personal trainer and gym manager qualifications,” said Wisher, “but things have settled. It’s quite an achievement, and we’re delighted to have over a hundred at weekly classes, mostly adult men but with groups for women, younger children, and teenagers. Helping people develop general fitness and boxing skills is what I most enjoy. Some are starting their own boxing career as competitors from The Ministry. Now we’re affiliated with England Boxing, the amateur sport’s governing body.”

Josh Wisher

West Leeds role model Wisher loves and champions his Armley home

Twenty-five-year-old Josh Wisher envisages The Ministry at the heart of the community. “We began by sponsoring a Remembrance event at Armley War Memorial and a Boxathon for Children in Need raised £ 300,” He explained. “I recently became an ambassador for Leeds Mind, having run last year’s York Marathon for them and I’m planning the Leeds Marathon this May. It’s a suitable charity because so much in boxing improves mental health, and through the sport, people become physically and mentally fitter and tougher. They are happier as they achieve their goals and build firm, motivating friendships in a social setting. I’ve also fundraised for CRY, the charity screening young athletes for undiagnosed heart conditions. I did seventy lengths in a sponsored swim at a local secondary and later presented swim medals and trophies and spoke to GCSE and ‘A’ level P.E. students.”

Two fatal stabbings in Armley in 2023 galvanised Wisher into action to use boxing as a way of building confidence, self-esteem and resilience for both those he ‘identified as potential perpetrators’ and others who’ve been victims of or witnesses to crime. “I was proud of the boxers interviewed at The Ministry by BBC Look North who made clear their abhorrence of knife crime and explained how boxing helps remove any perceived need for knives. We got funding for classes for young people, and I now run a weekly session for novice boxers at Armley Leisure Centre,” confirmed Wisher.

“BOXING HELPS REMOVE ANY PERCEIVED NEED FOR KNIVES”

Local school students are benefitting from classes that Wisher runs at his own former primary, Green Hill, and at Dixon’s Unity Academy, where organising teacher Matthew Worrall commented that “students have warmed to Josh so readily, he has managed to push them physically whilst also making them feel comfortable. They rush to his extracurricular class with all involved seeming more relaxed and confident in themselves. He’s proving a real asset to our school community.”

Saturday morning sees a ladies-only class at The Ministry. “Women’s boxing has established itself in the same way as ladies’ football. We have a girl boxer from the gym who is now competing as a fully-fledged amateur, but the ladies’ session is designed more to develop fitness, confidence, and resilience through basic boxing training.”

Josh Wisher at the Ministry of Boxing

Josh leads the Saturday morning ladies-only class

Attendees are highly satisfied. “I’ve been attending for six months,” said Margaret, who attends the sessions. “I love the friendly atmosphere. Someone recommended the sessions to help cope with anxiety. They’ve really helped. It’s a cliché, but if I can do it, anyone can.” Sentiments echoed by the mother of three, Paulette, who praised “the positive, welcoming atmosphere at The Ministry with friendly, encouraging coaches who nevertheless have high expectations. Attending classes here has massively improved my willingness to get out and socialise.”

The mother of two ‘physically highly active’ young sons and primary school teacher, Lucy commends Josh for his motivating teaching ability. “Participants are constantly challenged physically, making the hour fly by. The sessions are particularly appropriate for women facing perimenopause and have improved my stamina, fitness, and toning. I’m running much longer distances and always come away with a clearer head as stress and tension have been relieved. I’d encourage anyone to give it a go.”

Boxing gyms attract for many reasons, and only a minority progress to competition. Wisher’s gym currently has five juniors and five adults ‘carded’ for amateur bouts, including Marcus Broadhead, 26. “Josh and Phil are enthusiastic, even passionate, for their boxers to make progress with a genuine interest. In just a few months, I’m about to have my seventh bout. The fact that as late to competing as I am, I can still aim for a Yorkshire title shows how ambitious The Ministry team is led by Josh.”

“I BELIEVE THAT I’M READY FOR LONGER, MORE CHALLENGING SIX OR EIGHT-ROUND FIGHTS”

Super middleweight Wisher won four professional bouts at Leeds United’s Elland Road pavilion while managed by Marki Bateson. “I improved,” said Josh Wisher, “becoming a more mature boxer and developing a personal style. I’m delighted when I demonstrate everything worked on with my coach in training and the advice given by my corner, such as keeping my opponent at a distance or launching effective, precisely targeted, punishing punches. Like any competitive sport, boxing is a learning experience. Boxers must eliminate any bad habits and evaluate their performance. Mastering the technicalities brings wins. I’ve learnt something new from each bout, and I’m now hoping to be even more active a boxer throughout the rest of 2024 under my new manager, Denzil Browne. Above all, I’m grateful to have the best possible coach in my dad, Phil.”

“Boxing events at the Leeds United venue are ‘small hall’ shows,” explains Wisher, “these are the bedrock underpinning professional boxing, offering younger, relatively unknown fighters the opportunity to build a solid record of achievement. It’s expensive to stage. The onus is solely on home boxers to sell tickets. This is a constant challenge faced by approximately 1100 professional boxers licensed with the British Boxing Board of Control. However, this 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 have turned out to support me and to my business and personal sponsors who have made it all possible.

A former Farnley Academy student and loyal Leeds United supporter, Wisher was twice an amateur Yorkshire champion. “My dad gave me the moniker The Truth owing to my apparently honest, direct and open boxing style. Then, the pandemic struck just as I was getting into adult life. It made me very determined to make a success of professional boxing. 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’. 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 and 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 who the tougher fighter is, physically and mentally. Entertaining and rewarding the many people in Leeds who believe in me makes it worthwhile.”

“I respect my opponents for their experience and courage but am keen to put on a fight performance which makes it clear to boxers higher up the rankings what they’ll face fighting me. I’ve no qualms about doing whatever it takes to win, but I always intend that afterwards, the opponent and I have a friendly post-fight chat. However, like any other boxer, I’m elated when I break down the opponent’s defence and deliver a devastating winning shot. That’s the ecstasy making any agony forgotten.”

Josh Wisher in action. Photo by Julian Hudson

‘I believe that I’m ready for longer, more challenging six or eight-round fights at major prestigious venues like Leeds Arena. I plan on remaining undefeated like my boyhood hero Joe Calzaghe, whom I’ve met, with 46 wins, including 32 knockouts. I’d like to be a world champion, but it depends on which opponents are available and whether I get on a championship undercard. I’m aiming for a Central Area title, and taking an army of fans to a major venue would be amazing.  Buoyed by so much support in Yorkshire, I’ll climb those ranks. To the top.”

Wisher is keen to invite companies and individuals to invest in his potential through sponsorship. “I’ve got a few sponsors but need more to develop my career fully,” said Josh. “I’m excited to show that I have the skill, strength, determination and courage to improve and succeed. Boxing is life-enhancing. For me and for others. my life’s mission is to prove this.”

NorthernLife June/July/Aug 24