We analyse the credentials of two of Britain's finest featherweights as Leigh Wood gets set to defend his prized WBA strap against Josh Warrington in an enthralling showdown in Sheffield.
After a year of speculation, Leigh Wood is set to defend his WBA featherweight world title against Josh Warrington, at Sheffield Arena.
Wood (4/11) enters the bout in a rich vein of form, and will look to establish himself as the best 126lb fighter in the world with victory over the former IBF champion.
2/1 outsider Warrington has only won one of his last four fights, but the Leeds man has never lost to a domestic rival and will be confident of keeping that streak intact and prizing the world title away from the grasp of Wood.
But who will be victorious?
John MacDonald takes a look at the 'Tale of the Tape'...
|Leigh Wood||Josh Warrington|
|Nickname:||Leigh-thal||The Leeds Warrior|
|Height:||5ft 7ins||5ft 7ins|
|Trainer:||Ben Davison||Sean O'Hagan|
|Record:||27-3 (16 KOs)||31-2-1 (8 KOs)|
|Titles:||WBA featherweight champion||Former IBF featherweight champion|
|Last Fight:||W (UD) v Mauricio Lara (May 2023)||L (UD) v Luis Alberto Lopez (December 2022)|
In February 2020, you would have struggled to find many people who believed that Leigh Wood would go on to become a world champion.
He had just suffered a shock defeat to James ‘Jazza’ Dickens in the ‘Golden Contract’ semi-final, a competition he had been the favourite to win.
It was difficult to envisage how the Nottingham fighter would get himself back into contention. However, linking up with, trainer, Ben Davison has finally seen ‘Leigh-thal’ fulfil his potential.
Wood’s fortunes turned in July 2021, when he was selected to face Xu Can for the WBA world title belt. The bout was designed to raised the Chinese fighter’s profile ahead of a clash with Warrington, but the Englishman upset the odds by securing a stoppage in the final round of a fight he had dominated.
In his first defence, the 35-year-old took on, London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, Michael Conlan, in what was one of the best fights of last year.
Wood suffered a heavy knockdown in the opening round, but survived and fought his way back into the bout.
The champion was down on the scorecards, but he sent Conlan to the canvas in the 11th round, to give himself a glimmer of hope. In the final three minutes, the Nottingham fighter needed a knockout and did just that, sending the challenger through the ropes, in the process.
After such a gruelling fight, Wood would have been forgiven for facing an easier foe in his next bout. Instead, he opted to take on the dangerous Mauricio Lara.
While such bravery is commendable, the Mexican made the decision appear to be a foolish one as he stopped the champion in the seventh round.
Ahead of a rematch in May, many had written off Wood’s chances, believing it was a case of when, rather than if Lara would stop him. However, ‘Leigh-thal’ produced an impressive display to recapture his belt, by unanimous decision.
Wood will need another disciplined performance if he is to defeat Warrington. The Leeds native thrives when the fight is fought at close-quarters, Wood must ensure he utilises his jab to keep his opponent at bay.
|Powerful puncher||Lack of head movement|
|Superb jab||Keeps his left hand low|
|Body shots||Leaves his chin in the air at times|
|Heart of a lion||Stays in range after throwing shots|
While recent years have seen Leigh Wood enjoy a late-career resurgence, Josh Warrington has had to endure anguish.
As the Covid-19 pandemic engulfed the world, Josh Warrington was riding the crest of a wave. In 2018, he had upset the odds to capture the IBF featherweight title with victory over Lee Selby, at the home of his beloved Leeds United.
Wins over domestic rivals Carl Frampton and Kid Galahad followed, before securing a rare stoppage win over Sofiane Takoucht.
‘The Leeds Warrior’ had his sights on a unification against WBA titlist, Xu Can, with hopes of securing fights with the division’s marquee names, in America, further down the line.
Those plans were scuppered when the IBF ordered Warrington to rematch Kid Galahad.
Their first fight had been close, with many observers believing that the challenger had done enough to have his hand raised. The initial bout had been an ugly one, and Warrington opted to vacate his title rather than go over old ground.
A stay-busy fight against, the unheralded, Mauricio Lara was made instead. Due to the restrictions in place at the time, the fight took place behind closed doors.
From the opening bell, Warrington appeared flat, while Lara looked threatening. The Mexican demonstrated just how dangerous he is in the fourth round, sending the former champion to the canvas. The Englishman never truly recovered and Lara closed the show in the ninth frame.
Seven months later, Warrington sought redemption as he faced Lara for a second time, at Headingley Stadium.
However, a clash of heads in the second stanza opened a nasty cut over the left eye of the visitor. The ringside doctor deemed the injury to be too severe for the fight to continue, as such, the bout ended in a draw. Warrington was left frustrated.
The 34-year-old regained his old IBF strap, last year, with a seventh-round stoppage against Kiko Martinez, who had stunned Kid Galahad to win the belt.
Warrington’s second reign was short-lived, as he lost the title to Luis Alberto Lopez, in his first defence.
If Warrington is to become a three-time world champion, he must rediscover the form that seen he ranked amongst the best in the world at 126lbs. However, after a run of arduous battles, that may be easier said, than done.
|Combination punching||Prone to head clashes|
|Tight-guard||Not as effective on the back foot|
|Body shots||Throws a wide left hook|
|Physical strength||Can become frustrated|