- Leigh Wood stops Josh Warrington to dramatically keep WBA featherweight title.
Leigh Wood claimed a stunning knockout victory over Josh Warrington to retain his WBA featherweight title in Sheffield.
Warrington had dominated up to the seventh round, but then a thunderous left from Wood was followed by a flurry to leave the Leeds boxer on his back.
Wood had entered the fight as favourite but appeared destined to lose his belt.
Yet one of the most dramatic comebacks in recent British boxing history sent the Nottingham boxer’s supporters wild.
“I fight until the end, I’ve not got a quit in me. I knew he’d get sloppy at times and I made him pay,” Wood told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“I had to give rounds away, he’s a great champion and he doesn’t quit. I had to dig in and dig deep and I did, but I knew my power would get to him.
“It’s about staying calm and composed. I got the job done.”
‘I thought Leigh was done’
Warrington – who had not fought for 10 months after a shock defeat to Luis Alberto Lopez – produced an all-action display to seemingly silence doubts about his top-level credentials.
But the two-time world champion’s time in elite boxing is now surely in serious doubt following this loss.
It is the second time Warrington has been stopped in a fight – he was also beaten by TKO against Mauricio Lara in 2021.
Warrington had exuded energy on the scales in the weigh-in while Wood cut a much more calm figure, and that contrast was reflected in the ring as the challenger came swinging from the off.
He had Wood on the ropes twice in round three with flurries of quick punches, while the champion – who began the fight in southpaw stance before switching to orthodox – was hurt with swelling to his right eye.
Warrington kept up a frantic energy through the first half of the right, landing cleaner hits to leave Wood stumbling, and really teeing off in round six. It seemed only a matter of time before the 32-year-old would hold a belt again.
“I said to Tony Bellew that I thought Leigh was done,” promoter Eddie Hearn told BBC Radio 5 Live. “He looked almost like he was sulking.
“I thought he was a round away from losing.”
But Wood had other ideas. He landed a thunderous left out of nowhere in the seventh which visibly shook Warrington.
This was followed by a devastating combination of five punches including a couple to the shin followed by a left to the temple, which ensured the 35-year-old kept his title in thrilling circumstances.
Wood has history in digging deep to recover from a losing position. There were shades of his win against Michael Conlan in March 2022, when he was down on all three judges’ scorecards going into round 12 yet managed to find a knockout punch.
Wood now has 17 knockout wins on his record. This must rank among the sweetest.
‘Warrington didn’t have his senses to carry on’
Wood got the greater reception on entering the Sheffield arena, with seemingly more fans of Nottingham Forest than Leeds United in the crowd. Warrington walking out to Marching On Together – the song of Leeds, a Yorkshire rival of Sheffield United and Wednesday – was an unpopular choice.
Wood is a fervent Forest fan and has long wanted to fight at the City Ground. Now, following the 28th win of his 31-bout career, it seems like he will get his dream.
A change in weight class also seems likely, with Wood saying featherweight is “done now”.
“Josh switched off for a second and it was goodnight Vienna,” Hearn said. “Josh was desperate to carry on and he was trying to compose himself. He didn’t have his senses to carry on. The ref made the right decision, what a thriller.”
While Wood is in dreamland, this was a nightmare for Warrington who realistically needed to win here after his shock loss to Lopez in front of a home Leeds crowd in December last year.
“People have written me off already,” Warrington said pre-fight. “[Saying that] I’m finished. It gives me the bit between my teeth.”
He chomped that bit with an all-action showing, but the lack of knockout power which has only seen him stop eight opponents in 32 fights was on show again here.
It was power that Wood showed in spades in round seven. It was a brutal, stunning end to a fight between two rivals who had shown utmost respect to each other in the build-up and did British boxing proud with an engrossing contest.