Leigh Wood stops Josh Warrington in Round 7, retains WBA featherweight title
In a thrilling domestic battle of English featherweight standouts, Leigh Wood withstood a furious challenge from Josh Warrington, stopping the former two-time titleholder at the end of Round 7 to retain his WBA belt on Saturday at Sheffield Arena.
Wood (28-3, 16 KOs), The Ring’s No. 3-rated featherweight, looked as though his lofty ranking and world title were in jeopardy after just four rounds of action. Warrington (31-3-1, 8 KOs), The Ring’s No. 8-rated featherweight, hadn’t fought since losing his IBF title to Luis Alberto Lopez in December but still flashed the faster hands and feet. The 32-year-old veteran from Leeds utilized an in-and-out attack that kept Woods off-balance, sometimes pressed to the ropes and visibly stunned a few times.
Warrington covered up while on the move but let his hands go with abandon whenever he planted his feet, often targeting Wood’s body before tagging the Nottingham native with hooks (one of which opened a cut near the titleholder’s right eye in Round 4).
However, Wood, who won The Ring’s 2022 Fight and Knockout of the Year with a come-from-behind 12th-round KO of Michael Conlan, remained cool and disciplined even as he was outworked and sporadically pushed back to the ropes.
“I knew the longer the fight goes the sloppier he gets,” Wood said after the fight. The 35-year-old veteran kept a stiff jab and straight rights aimed at Warrington’s stomach, survived a rally from Warrington to close Round 5, and appeared ready to seize an opportunity to get back into the fight after Warrington was penalized a point for headbutting in Round 7.
The British featherweights engaged in a duel of jabs until the final 20 seconds of the round when Warrington attempted another round-stealing flurry. Wood was ready to counter Warrington with a left hook, which wobbled the Leeds man. Wood instantly followed up with a series of hooks and crosses that dropped Warrington, who beat the count but did so on wobbly legs. The bout was waved off at the 3:00 mark.
“Josh is a very tough kid, a great fighter,” Wood said after the bout. “All I can say is I’ve got a game changer (shaking his fist).”
Warrington was disappointed the fight was stopped just as the round ended but he admitted that he was a little bit rusty and nailed by an established home-run hitter.
“I switched off for a second. He caught me with a good shot,” said Warrington, who thanked his loyal fans and proposed a rematch.
Wood was open to that option but noted that he’s fought three times during the past eight months — two bouts with Mauricio Lara resulting in a KO loss followed by a decision victory, prior to Warrington — not an easy schedule.
Wood, who is considering a move to junior lightweight, is due a breather and overdue respect outside of England.