Suffolk heavyweight boxing sensation Fabio Wardley fights David Adeleye for the British and Commonwealth titles in Saudi Arabia this weekend. Mark Heath spoke to him...

It's no exaggeration to say there will be millions of people watching around the world when Fabio Wardley steps into the ring in Riyadh this weekend.

The Suffolk sledgehammer (16-0, 15KO) faces David Adeleye (12-0, 11KO) as the chief support to superstar Tyson Fury's (33-0-1, 24KO) crossover fight with MMA champion Francis Ngannou (0-0 boxing).

The spectacular event is expected to attract not just boxing and MMA followers, but also the more casual sports fan intrigued by the huge hype around the 'Battle of the Baddest.'

East Anglian Daily Times: Fabio Wardley could add more belts to his collection this weekendFabio Wardley could add more belts to his collection this weekend (Image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)
For Wardley, who defends his British title for the first time, it's an opportunity to both lift another major belt - the vacant Commonwealth strap is also on the line, plus the WBO European and WBA Continental titles - and attract a new fanbase as he raises his profile even further.

The charismatic 28-year-old has exceeded all expectations since he turned pro after just four white collar fights, combining frightening power along with a speed of movement uncommon in the heavyweight division.

"It’s been a wild ride and I’ve been holding on tight and enjoying it for what it is," he smiled, when asked about his unlikely boxing journey so far.

“We’ve had some great moments, some great fights, so long may it continue.

“We’re moving on to bigger things with each fight, this next one is massive.

“I don’t think I’ve given myself a proper five minutes to sit back and go ‘actually, you’re not doing half bad!’

East Anglian Daily Times: Fabio Wardley is 16-0 with 15 straight stoppagesFabio Wardley is 16-0 with 15 straight stoppages (Image: Ross Halls)
He added: "I think you break through old ceilings of where you thought you were and pop your head up and think ‘oh actually I can really do some big things here.’

“Initially when I first started out I just wanted to get to this milestone or that milestone and I’ve smashed through most of those.

“Now I think we can really kick on and do something massive here.

“The sky’s the limit really – there’s no point setting goals any more because when I do, I smash them up.

"It’s just about keeping focused, getting your head down and getting the work done.”

Promoter Frank Warren, the man behind Saturday's super event, said last week he doesn't think there will ever have been as many people watching a British title fight.

It's a fact not lost on former Chantry High School pupil Wardley.

"I think Frank’s right," he said. "There’s going to be loads of people watching, a real spectacle, and we’re in prime position as the chief support.

“You’ve got to have a good dance partner, so I’m hoping Adeleye turns up and wants to put on a performance for the fans, because we’re getting a good opportunity to showcase ourselves and British boxing on a global stage.

“You’ve got to have the right person to tango with. We all know me and my style – I like to get stuck in and I don’t mind having a go and a back and forth, so hopefully he turns up and wants to do the same thing."

He continued: "It’s clear that from our records we’ve both got power, we can both bang, and I’ve always shown that I’m happy to stand in the middle, trade it out and see who comes out on top.

“He hasn’t been through those moments as yet, we’ve not seen that side of him, so maybe this stage will bring it out of him.”

Indeed, on paper, while Adeleye and Wardley both boast impressive KO records, the Suffolk puncher's CV is far superior to that of his opponent on Saturday.

East Anglian Daily Times: Like Wardley, David Adeleye is unbeatenLike Wardley, David Adeleye is unbeaten (Image: PA Images)
While Wardley's beaten the likes of former world title challenger Eric Molina, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Simon Vallily and respected domestic rival Nathan Gorman, Adeleye has yet to really step up in class.

“There is quite a big gap between the quality (of opponents), I think," Wardley said.

"We may have similar records in terms of numbers and knockouts and things like that, but in terms of quality of opponents I think there’s quite a distinct difference, that much is obvious.

“But who knows? Maybe I’m the one to bring it out of him and make him really want to go for it on the night.”

The combatants made headlines when the fight was launched, with a scuffle on the red carpet ahead of the press conference leaving Wardley with a cut above his eye. He got caught in the crossfire after Adeleye apparently had a disagreement with a member of the media and a brawl ensued.

East Anglian Daily Times: Fabio Wardley ended up with a cut eye after a melee on the red carpet at the fight launchFabio Wardley ended up with a cut eye after a melee on the red carpet at the fight launch (Image: PA Images)
“I think it was just a few people getting over-excited about themselves, it was a silly thing that didn’t need to happen," the Suffolk star explained.

“There was no need for that extra sauce to be thrown on top of what was already a great fight and a great event.

“I think it just goes to show that some people aren’t particularly comfortable being in those environments on those big stages, they can get a bit twitchy and nervous or whatever.

“But it’s done now, the fight’s still going ahead and we’re happy to kick on so that’s the main thing to focus on.”

While it's Adeleye who will stand across from Wardley this Saturday, it looked likely he'd be facing Olympic medallist Frazer Clarke (8-0, 6KO) in his first British title defence.

The fight had been ordered by the British Boxing Board of Control, with Wardley and promoter Eddie Hearn even meeting with Ipswich Town CEO Mark Ashton about the potential of hosting it at Portman Road.

East Anglian Daily Times: Fabio Wardley, Mark Ashton and Eddie Hearn on the pitch at Portman RoadFabio Wardley, Mark Ashton and Eddie Hearn on the pitch at Portman Road (Image: Fabio Wardley/Instagram)
And, while the dust-up eventually fell through, with Clarke's team apparently not keen on risking their man against Wardley, it's a fight which still seems destined to happen.

Wardley said: “I just want to be in good fights and I don’t want them to be a fuss to make, just simple, clean and easy.

“As long as it’s easy to make and there’s not a big who-ha like last time.

“It’s a great fight, definitely someone I’m interested in fighting – a good credible opponent for another defence of my British title.

“As long as it’s easy to make, I’m happy to do it whenever – and then we can maybe try and tick it off at Portman Road and do the big one there.”

East Anglian Daily Times: A big fight with Frazer Clarke could be held at Portman RoadA big fight with Frazer Clarke could be held at Portman Road (Image: PA Images)
A fight night at Portman Road, home of Wardley's beloved Ipswich Town, has long been his dream, in what would be a historic night for Suffolk boxing.

“I don’t think it’s very far away at all," said Wardley, who wears the Town badge on his fight shorts and goes to battle bedecked in blue and white.

"I’m down the club a lot now and Mark (Ashton) is always in my ear and on me about it, wants it to get done.

“So the club are very much on board and behind it, they really want it to happen.

“But again you need the right fight, it needs the right opponent and the right building for it to really be the spectacle it deserves to be.

“So hopefully we can get that sorted – but it’s looking very likely. The fight with me and Frazer is bubbling, there’s back and forth moments, so there’s a lot there that can help build it into a great fight.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Wardley wears the Town colours and badge into the ringWardley wears the Town colours and badge into the ring (Image: PA Images)
Of course, such a night would also be a perfect stage for another of Suffolk's famous sons, global pop superstar Ed Sheeran, to get involved.

He already sponsors the club's shirts and was recently seen having a post-match dressing room singsong with the players after the 3-0 win over Hull City.

Wardley laughed: "Maybe that’s the other thing we need for Portman Road is to make sure Ed’s around and we can get him down and sing me out or something.

“Maybe we need him to make something a bit more aggressive for the fight night, but I’m sure he can come up with something!”

As exciting as that could be, it's all in the future. For now, it's all eyes on Saudi Arabia this Saturday.

East Anglian Daily Times: Ed Sheeran is often seen at Portman Road - could he sing Fabio Wardley out to the ring there one day?Ed Sheeran is often seen at Portman Road - could he sing Fabio Wardley out to the ring there one day? (Image: ITFC)
Asked for a prediction, Wardley said: “It’s going to be an interesting one. I’m hoping he comes out and wants to get stuck in and wants to have a fight, because that’s what I want to do.

“I want to put on a show. I don’t go on shows like this, massive events like this, to just be one of the undercard fights that no-one pays attention to.

“I want to try to steal the show. You need the right dance partner for that, so hopefully he meets me in the centre of the ring and we can swing it out, and my hand gets raised.”

- You can watch Wardley v Adeleye as part of the Fury v Ngannou PPV on TNT Sports this weekend