UTILITA ARENA, SHEFFIELD — Leigh Wood pulled an astonishing KO victory out of the fire against Josh Warrington, battering his British rival to the canvas in round seven to retain the WBA featherweight title.
Wood (28-3, 17 KOs) was making the first defence of his second reign after claiming an authoritative revenge win over Mauricio Lara in July, Warrington’s old foe who knocked the Nottingham man out in their February encounter.
In the initial Lara fight, Wood stacked up a handy lead on the cards before being separated from his senses by the heavy-handed Mexican. In a crackling local derby on Saturday, the 35-year-old Nottingham man was on the other side of that equation.
Former two-time IBF champion Warrington (31-3-1, 8 KOs) was boxing for the first time since losing his belt to Luis Alberto Lopez last December. The extended lay-off revitalised the 32-year-old, who dominated the first six rounds as Wood sagged under his relentless pace, pressure and punching.
But the fight turned on its head during the closing seconds of the seventh. A right hook caught Warrington flush on the chin as he came forward, robbing him of his equilibrium and causing him to fall towards greater peril.
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WATCH: Wood vs. Warrington, exclusively live on DAZN
Wood unloaded hooks from both wings to leave his rival flat on his back and referee Michael Alexander to make the compassionate decision of breaking Warrington’s heart.
Warrington, walking first into an arena split down the middle between the two fighter’s passionate Leeds and Nottingham followings, looked fired up and confident. Wood, by contrast, displayed the calm detachment of a champion. Or perhaps there was a sense of foreboding given what Warrington went on to dish out against a fighter who insists this will be the last time he boils his frame down to 126 lbs.
The challenger flew out of the traps and landed a straight left before both men aimed at the body. There would be no feeling out process.
Warrington tagged Wood with a left hook – a punch with which he seldom missed — before each landed simultaneously with right hands. There was more threshing machine activity from the Leeds man in round two, with Wood fighting out of the southpaw stance and sinking a left into Warrington’s midsection.
The champion’s cleaner work briefly caught the eye but he was driven back into the ropes under heavy fire in the third, with the Leeds side of the arena roaring itself hoarse as a right hook left Wood’s head gogging.
The referee admonished Warrington for hitting on the break but it was starting to look like his type of fight, with Wood’s right lead lacking the authority to dissuade another thunderous assault before the bell.
A Warrington right to the jaw seemingly persuaded Wood that the southpaw experiment had run its course, but by that stage he’d allowed the two-time champ to hit the relentlessly menacing rhythm that defined his glory days and those famous wins over Lee Selby and Carl Frampton.
Wood was cut above the outside of his right eye in round five from a grazing Warrington left. The challenger had flyweight world champion Sunny Edwards on his feet at ringside and Wood sagged as he was battered to head and body inside the final half minute.
Time appeared to be running out on Wood’s championship reign even as he enjoyed a better sixth, albeit largely dealing in single shots as punishing volume came back the other way.
Warrington was deducted a point for hitting behind the head at the start of round seven in what felt like a blip on a march to glory. It turned out to be the least of his problems.
In the co-main event, WBA super welterweight champion Terri Harper shared a controversial majority draw with former pound-for-pound queen Cecilia Braekhus. Harper got the nod 97-93 on one scorecard but the other two judges scored the bout 95-95, with a big effort from the veteran Braekhus in the final round saving her from a third career defeat. The WBO title, which was also up for grabs, remains vacant.
Leigh Wood vs Josh Warrington full card results
- Leigh Wood (c) def. Josh Warrington (TKO 7/12) to retain the WBA featherweight title
- Terri Harper (c) drew. Cecilia Braekhus (MD 10). Harper retains the WBA super welterweight title; the WBO super welterweight title remains vacant
- Kieron Conway def. Linus Udofia (TKO 6/12) to win the vacant WBA intercontinental middleweight title
- Hopey Price (c) def. Connor Coghill (TKO 12/12) to retain the WBA continental featherweight title
- Junaid Bostan def. Corey McCulloch (TKO 6/8); super welterweights
- Nico Leivars def. Ryan Walker (PTS 8); super bantamweights
- Cameron Vuong def. Engel Gomez (TKO 4/6); lightweights
- Koby McNamara def. Francisco Rodriguez (PTS 6); bantamweights
How to watch Leigh Wood vs Josh Warrington
|Region||TV channel||Live streaming|
|UK and Ireland||DAZN 1 HD||DAZN|
The Leigh Wood vs. Josh Warrington fight card was available via DAZN. The streaming platform was also available as a Sky channel for fans in the UK.