Featured image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.
Nottingham’s ‘comeback kid’ Leigh Wood wrote yet another astonishing chapter in his story with an incredible turnaround victory over Josh Warrington in Sheffield on Saturday.
Down on all three scorecards and looking sapped of any hope of stemming Warrington’s momentum, Wood somehow regrouped to secure a sensational seventh-round stoppage of the ‘Leeds Warrior’ to defend his WBA featherweight title.
Warrington starts fast
Warrington flew out the gate in the opening seconds of the first round in search of three-time world champion status, throwing multiple hooks against the chin of Wood who opted to fight fire with fire but was unable to match the challenger’s output.
Wood stepped back towards the end of the round and switched to southpaw as he sought to pick Warrington off from medium range.
His plan looked to be working a treat in the second behind a pawing southpaw jab backed up by straight left hands down the line.
Warrington regained control in the third though backing up Wood to the ropes before unleashing several hooks, many of which found the target.
The former IBF titleholder looked the sharper of the two, regularly landing with the straight right as Wood was unable to match Warrington’s output.
Weight a factor for lethargic looking Wood?
Questions of whether the weight-cut had taken its toll on the champion began to ring in the ears as Warrington continued to land the cleaner, more consistent work.
More right hands looked to buzz Wood at the start of the sixth behind a terrific Warrington jab which consistently snapped the Nottingham man’s head back as the second half of the fight neared.
For a man who entered the night a 3/1 underdog, Warrington made a mockery of the betting odds and was on his way to a possible career-best performance heading into the seventh.
Wood meanwhile looked depleted, devoid, of both energy and confidence. But, a man who has consistently proven he can turn water into wine even under the most dire circumstances can – should – never be written off.
Warrington has point taken before dramatic ending
The jab of Warrington continued to pummel and disrupt Wood into the seventh as the challenger’s lead grew wider on the scorecards.
His momentum was momentarily quashed however when referee Michael Alexander opted to deduct a point for rabbit punching, despite issuing no identifiable warnings up until that point.
The breakthrough might have inspired but Wood but instead it was Warrington who increased the tempo again, determined not to let his lead slip.
Ten seconds remained as Warrington looked sure to bank another round – deducted points aren’t taken until the fight’s finished – as Wood aimed to back the challenger up with a southpaw jab.
An initial attempt for a one-two was abandoned before the same combination pushed Warrington to the ropes before a sweeping right hook cannoned against the Leeds’ featherweight’s chin.
Warrington – unable to disguise the damage of the shot – stumbled forward, only to be met by several left and right hooks which left him flat on his back in the centre of the ring.
Only seconds remained in the round but Warrington was undoubtedly hurt as he fumbled his way back to his corner.
The bell sounded but Alexander was still unsatisfied of Warrington’s condition and who, with the challenger’s back to the referee who was still administering a count, decided he was in no shape to continue.
A proud Warrington immediately protested the decision but the reaction of his corner were comparatively mute while Wood wheeled away in celebration.
The comeback king does it again
In a fight between two men who can never be written off, Wood provided another reminder than when boxing is at its best, nothing can top it.
The drama of the finish begs belief when taken with the context of his other recent outings against Can Xu, Michael Conlan and Mauricio Lara to continue a story worthy of its own Hollywood production in years to come.
“I’ve beat a legitimate two-time world champion. Just that fight night was like my career, we got the knockout in the end and I’m one fight away, I’m gonna get my fairytale ending.”
The ending Wood speaks of is the home of his beloved Nottingham Forest Football Club – the City Ground – with promoter Eddie Hearn confirming plans to stage a mega showdown there in the new year.
“This man is unbelievable. What he’s done in the featherweight division…it just shows you, if you stick at it, anything can happen,” Hearn said.
“Next summer, the City Ground, Leigh Wood must get his chance.”
The opponent of choice remains a mystery as of now but Wood has options a plenty, whether that be rematches with Warrington or Conlan, or showdowns with 130lb champions Joe Cordina, O’Shaquie Foster and Emanuel Navarrete.
Warrington meanwhile could not hide his disappointment with the referee who he insists didn’t give him a fair shake in the seventh when he remained ahead on all three scorecards.
“I felt good. I listened to the count, turned round at eight and he’s waving his arms. I heard the clap on the ring as well [to say] there’s ten seconds left to go, so I feel a bit let down.
“That’s two losses on the bounce that I don’t feel’s done me justice. I’d like to run it back again, I felt like I was cruising it.”