MOMENTS after Leigh Wood connected with the right hook which disconnected Josh Warrington from his senses and turned what appeared to be a likely defeat into certain victory, DAZN’s Mike Costello called it “the punch of a lifetime”, so caught up was the veteran commentator in the sheer drama of it all.
The truth is, of course, for Wood, 28-3 (17), this was just another “punch of a lifetime”. It was, in fact, his second come-from-behind, one-punch finish in the space of just 18 months, following that stunning final-round knockout of Michael Conlan – on that occasion a right cross – in 2021. That it happened again, this time in round seven rather than the last, is a testament to not only Wood’s punch power, but also his uncanny ability to keep persevering despite swings of momentum going against him and, furthermore, despite the confidence in his opponent’s eyes and demeanour.
For it cannot be denied that Warrington, at the point at which Wood’s right hook cracked against his exposed jaw, was very much in control and on his way to victory. Moving well, and beating Wood to the punch time and time again, the Leeds man, unlike Conlan before him, was caught at a time in the fight when he was both relatively fresh and clearly on top. With Conlan, you see, the same could not be said. By then, despite having floored Wood in the first round, the Irishman had effectively punched himself out and was attempting to now fiddle his way to a decision as opposed to pull away in order to remove any doubt in the eyes of the ringside judges.
Warrington, by contrast, was still working on his masterpiece at the time of the stoppage. He was getting better, too, round after round, and perhaps lost only one of the six completed. Indeed, once he had figured out Wood as a southpaw, a stance the Nottingham featherweight tried more than once, Warrington had things mostly his own way in the contest. He mixed his attacks well to both head and body and had plenty of success with the left hook, which often landed upstairs after Warrington had first invested heavily downstairs. It was, in many ways, a performance typical of Warrington: full of intensity, full of combinations, and full of borderline headbutts, shoulders, and low blows. Also added to that were right hands around the back of the head, a transgression Wood not only complained about early on, but one for which in round seven, the same round in which he was stopped, Warrington had a point deducted.
In the end, though, it was all immaterial, just like the four or five rounds Warrington seemingly won before the pivotal right hook landed. Interestingly, too, rather than frustration, as tends to be the case when a fighter resorts to so-called dirty tactics, Warrington’s antics were instead merely part of his game plan, his character, his very DNA. If anything, tonight it was a sign not of frustration but of enthusiasm, passion, excitement. He was, it seemed, desperate to put his hands on Wood and land as hard and as often as he could.
This, once getting to grips with Wood’s left-handed stance, he was able to do with aplomb as well, often unsettling Wood with a combination; one that would usually start with a punch before making way for another part of his anatomy, or vice versa.
Still, regardless of how messy it may have appeared, Warrington, it was plain to see, was making Wood fight his kind of fight. This was something highlighted by not just the fact Wood was cut by his right eye in round four – a punch, apparently – but also the uncertainty with which he switched from orthodox to southpaw and then back again.
In round five, for example, he was again boxing right-handed, as though having given up on the southpaw experiment altogether. It was in that stance, southpaw, he had in round two been able to create space for his left hand, thrown as both a cross and an uppercut. However, Warrington was soon hip to this and it wasn’t long before he realised throwing punches in bunches and effectively suffocating Wood was going to be the way around this issue.
It was problem-solving, that’s all, and Warrington, now 31-3-1 (8), was displaying a knack for it, in much the same way he was displaying newfound maturity, control, and, most important of all, dominance. Which is why, when in round seven Wood, back briefly as a southpaw, stepped to him in an exchange and let fly with his right hook, the damage done by the punch was far more than the damage done by your average right hook landing flush on an unguarded chin in a routine fight. Here, with Warrington protecting everything but his chin, and with momentum undoubtedly his, this was a punch the likes of which most fighters, Costello is right, only throw, land and experience once in a lifetime – if they’re lucky.
And yet, for Leigh Wood, this, rather than a rare occurrence, has become all of a sudden a common one; one almost expected, anticipated. Which, if true, then begs the question: At what point does a “punch of a lifetime” become an action planned rather than one delivered, as if a miracle, by the boxing gods? Moreover, given Wood’s propensity to fight like this, and now win fights like this, at what point do we stop being surprised and at what point is a fight ever truly deemed a lost cause in the crazy and unpredictable world of Leigh Wood?