West End AC and the Road to Becoming a Champion: October 21st, 2023, Josh Wagner and Sara Haghigat-Joo at Pickering Casino Resort

United Promotions marketing poster for October 21, 2023, fight at Pickering Casino Resort. Images of boxers in a fight pose with Josh “The Boss” Wagner in the top left and Sara Haghighat-Joo in the top middle

Josh “The Boss” Wagner and Sara Haghighat-Joo – Grit Don’t Quit.

On October 21, 2023, United Promotions hosts Josh Wagner “The Boss” (16-0) versus Luis Vidales Gutierrez (24-9) in the Welterweight matchup and Sara Haghighat-Joo (2-0) versus ranked contender Esmeralda Gaona (8-4-2) in a world-class light flyweight clash in The Arena at Pickering Casino Resort. Both Josh and Sara aim for nothing short of being number one, their resilience and tenacity are unmatched, and this next fight is sure to showcase their sacrifice, hard work, determination, and unwavering grit.

Josh Wagner “The Boss” (16-0) 8KO

Born in Orangeville, Ontario, Josh Wagner “The Boss” is now Top 25 in the world after his IBO Intercontinental Welterweight Champion title win. He is undefeated (16-0) 8KO and is only just getting started. West End Athletic Club is proud to support Josh in his battle to becoming a World Champion, and under the training of Coach Stevie, he knows he is closer than ever to achieving his ultimate goal, becoming a World Champion.

As a kid, Josh was active, playing sports like lacrosse, hockey, and football. He always wanted to be the best, and his competitive nature was a driving force in everything that he did. In the following Q&A, Josh provides insight into who he is as a boxer and what we can expect from him.

Josh Wagner is standing beside Coach Stevie Bailey, of West End Athletic Club, inside a boxing ring, holding a red IBA championship belt on one shoulder and wearing his green IBO Welterweight Champion belt around his waist.

Josh “The Boss” Wagner is the IBO Welterweight Champion with Coach Stevie by his side.

Q: When did you start boxing?

A: I was 12 years old when I started boxing, and it was because of my older brother; I just always did what he did. My first fight was when I was 13 years old.

Q: What is it about boxing that makes you want to keep showing up in the ring?

A: Boxing is my passion and my way of living, at the moment, it is my only focus so I’m making the most of the opportunity. I love what I do, so it’s hard to look at it like a job, boxing challenges me and gives me an avenue to let out my pent-up energy and what I hold inside.

Q: What’s to be expected in the upcoming fight on October 21st, 2023?

A: I will be fighting at the Pickering Casino against a very durable Mexican opponent who has fought some big names. I haven’t seen much on him, but I’ll be ready for whatever comes my way. For me, there really isn’t an off-season or time off, I’m always training. For this fight, my full-on training camp begins 6-8 weeks prior to the fight date.

My training sessions will run 2x a day; one is conditioning, and the other a 2-hour boxing session. Every day is always a bit different, like some days we do sprints, some will be sparring, and on others, it can be running or on the bike. I just do what my coach tells me to do, and it works; I always go into my fights prepared.

The hardest part about training though is the mental drain. Day in and day out, you’re consistently pushing your body to the limits, but for me, the victory is always worth it.

Q: How did you hear about West End Athletic Club?

A: My coach Stevie Bailey started working at West End, and wherever he goes, I go.

Q: How did you get involved with Stevie?

A: A while back, when I was looking for a new coach, I heard there was this Irishman who is the boxing guru. I wanted to see what all the hype was about, and after meeting Coach Stevie and seeing how he trains his athletes, I realized immediately what I was missing. The guy is hands down the best boxing Coach in Canada.

Q: How does Stevie help you prepare for competition?

A: I put all my trust in Stevie and always try my best to stick to his game plan that he drills in our heads throughout training camp. He is in the gym with me day in and day out.

Q: In your last fight, you beat Williams Andres Herrera, bringing you into the Top 25 boxers worldwide in your weight class; what did that mean for you?

A: It was a great title fight, and it was an honour to give the fans a great fight. This was the next step for me to get into the top 10 and then a World Title opportunity. It’s what I’ve been working towards, it’s my ultimate goal to show that I belong with the best in the world.

Q: What’s the most important thing to remember when competing as a professional boxer?

A: Train hard, stay consistent, and just keep going no matter what. Eating healthy and treating your body well so it is ready for battle anytime is so important.

Coach Stevie Bailey wearing a West End Athletic Club black long-sleeve, is standing beside Boxer Josh Wagner, who is wearing a West End Athletic Club white t-shirt, inside the boxing ring in Toronto.

Josh Wagner on Coach Stevie, “Wherever he goes, I go.”

Q: What are the next couple of weeks leading up to the fight on October 21st going to look like for you?

A: The next couple of weeks training camp is in full effect; sparring, sprints, running, swimming, everything is dialed up, and I am completely focused on the task at hand, standing with my arm held in the air at the end of the fight. I always come prepared for war and will do anything to win.

There isn’t a fan who doesn’t enjoy watching Josh, as he never fails to deliver a good fight. Commentator and Coach/Trainer at West End Athletic Club Michelle Sturino, who has had the privilege of covering Josh’s fights in the past, shared that “he is very passionate and emotional, not to mention one of the most entertaining fighters United Promotions has. He is disciplined and diligent, even with the mental aspect of his game, which has created a confident warrior that never quits. His drive to succeed is inspirational, which is another reason why so many fans enjoy watching him. You know you are in for a great fight whenever he steps into the ring.”

United Promotions poster for the fight on October 21, 2023, at Pickering Casino Resort featuring Sara Haghighat-joo in a fighting stance in the middle. To the side is an image of half of her face looking directly straight with a determined expression.

Sara is focused and determined, ready to face any opponent.

Sara Haghighat-Joo (2-0)

In addition to Josh, West End Athletic Club supports Sara Haghighat-Joo as she takes on Esmeralda “La Pelusa” Gaona on October 21st, 2023. Coming off a bronze-place finish on the Road to Paris 2024: Africa Qualification Tournament in Dakar. Her goal is set, and she is prepared to do whatever it takes to become an Olympian.

Q: What is it about Boxing that makes you want to keep showing up in the ring and staying motivated after a setback?

A: What keeps me motivated is the love of the sport. I started boxing for fitness training and quickly fell in love with all aspects of the sport; I love that what you get from it is all about what you put in. The glory, when I win, it’s all on me. The hours of work and sacrifice are all on me. Although there is a team behind me, it all comes down to how disciplined I choose to be inside the gym and, more importantly, outside of the gym. My coaches can’t do that for me because when it comes down to it, I’m the one that’s taking the punches.

Two images, left is Sara Haghighat-joo standing beside her brother Sasan, wearing blue boxing gloves, and he is wearing red; both are wearing black and standing in the gym. Image on the right shows Sara standing with her brother after winning a fight.

Sara has even more reason to fight for her dreams.

Q: Who was it that got you started in your boxing journey?

A: Growing up, I played many team sports in school, and in my grade 11 year, there was a change to the senior basketball Coach. Right from the start, the new Coach told me she wasn’t going to play me at all that year, so I left the team. I wasn’t going to sit on the bench the entire season and watch everyone else play. That day I went home and cried my eyes out, not knowing what to do. My parents turned to me and said, “Why don’t you start boxing at the gym your brother trains at?” (Sasan, may your soul rest in peace). In the end, I thank that basketball Coach who made me quit; because of her, I decided to tag along with my brother to his boxing gym, which ultimately changed my life.

Q: How has this motivated you throughout your career?

A: Sasan has motivated me throughout my entire career. He challenged me in ways only a sibling can; he pushed me to my limits and was so excited for me to succeed. When I started to get better, some sibling rivalry kicked in, he would say things like, “Well, you’re only a club-level fighter, then it was you only fight locally, then you’re only on the provincial team.” This kept me fired up and helped get me where I am now. My brother was an incredible fighter, very athletic and talented, I had none of that, but I knew how to work hard, stay disciplined, and never quit. It has taken me longer, but I’m here; I’m making it happen.

Q: What’s to be expected in the upcoming fight on October 21st, 2023?

A: On October 21st, I’ll be competing in my third professional fight: an 8×2 minute round against a Mexican fighter who has had 14 professional fights. 

Right now, my typical training session includes arriving at West End and doing about a 25-30 minute warm-up that consists of skipping, calisthenic exercises, hand weight drills, dynamic stretching, and shadow boxing. For the actual session, my coach gets me to start with situational rounds, we go over fight-specific techniques and tactics, followed by 6-8 rounds of hand pads.

Sara Haghighat-joo doing mitt work in the boxing ring at West End Athletic Club with Coach Stevie Bailey.

Sara reflects, “I’m always in camp, I eat clean and train year-round. Boxing is my lifestyle.”

Q: How does Stevie help you prepare for competition as both your Coach and husband?

A: 99% of the time, Stevie is my Coach. He’s very consistent with training and organizes all my sparring and strength and conditioning with Miguel. Stevie stays on top of my rehab and makes sure my weight is where it needs to be. We both agreed that boxing comes first in our relationship, that’s our first love, and that works for our marriage. People still make the comment, “I can’t believe you guys are married” because we maintain a disciplined Coach/Athlete relationship.

We’re going on eight years of marriage, I’d say that’s a pretty successful career and marriage. That 1% of husband time, I typically get at Christmas when we take our holiday. We’ll both shut off and lay on a beach somewhere. 

Q: What’s the most important thing to remember when competing as a professional boxer?

Anyone can get hurt. With small gloves and no headgear, you’re going to feel every punch. I’ve had two professional fights where I’ve completely dominated and barely gotten hit, but the next day, I couldn’t believe how sore I was.  

Q: All proceeds from this fight will be going to assist your parents with funeral expenses for your brother Sasan, who recently passed away. Is there anything the West End Community can do to honour Sasan’s memory?

There have been a lot of people who have reached out to me with their condolences which we greatly appreciate. There are also a lot of people who wish they could be in attendance for the upcoming fight on October 21st to show their support but can’t. I’m taking donations at sarajoo17@gmail.com and will add that sum to the profits from my fight. All proceeds will be given to my mom and dad for Sasan’s funeral costs. 

Sasan was a big part of my boxing career, and I will forever be grateful to him for challenging and pushing me to do more. I am nowhere close to retiring, and now I have an even bigger reason to keep chasing the dream.

You will forever be in our hearts Sasan Xo.

For both Josh and Sara, the drive, determination, and passion are there. At West End AC, we are Team Wagner and Team Haghighat-Joo; we stand with them one fight at a time. 

Want to be there to see the action live? West End AC is organizing various tables and seating that will directly support the fighters on the card. All ticket purchases can be ordered via email request to sarajoo17@gmail.com or coachsteviebailey@gmail.com. Ages 19+, this is the last Pro event for West End AC fighters, and it is sure not to disappoint.