A few years ago talk of Leigh Wood challenging Josh Warrington for his place as the UK’s best featherweight would have seem far-fetched.
As the country did their best to survive a world-changing global pandemic, Warrington endured a boxing nightmare against Mauricio Lara, while Wood turned in the performance of his life against Can Xu.
Both fights were contested behind closed doors and now it is Wood who is the man in the driving seat, carrying a featherweight world title which he will defend against Warrington on Saturday (Oct 7) at the Sheffield Arena. The packed-out venue will provide a soundtrack of football chants and boos and cheers for the Nottingham Forest fan (Wood) and Leeds United fan (Warrington).
It has been billed as a 50-50 fight, but the bookies have Wood as the odds-on favourite to retain his title.
But what does the trade think? Boxing News contacted a number of figures within the industry to get their predictions on the fight.
- Mark Dunlop (Manager/Promoter) – I think Josh Warrington will win. His experience in the bigger fights will see him win a close but unanimous points victory in what should be a cracking contest.
- Steve Goodwin (Manager/Promoter) – It’s a tough one as it depends on what Josh has left. The best Josh beats the best Leigh, but I think on balance the best Josh has departed. For me therefore it is Leigh Wood by a comfortable points decision.
- Matthew Macklin (Former world middleweight title challenger) – Wood impressed me with how he bounced back from the Lara defeat and how he picked himself up from a disastrous start against Mick [Conlan] to go on and win late. No doubt Warrington will throw the kitchen sink at him, but I think Wood’s better boxing ability and power will come up with the antidote. Wood to win inside the distance.
- Tyler Denny (European middleweight title challenger) – Even though I promised myself I wouldn’t bet against Warrington again after his wins against [Lee] Selby and [Carl] Frampton I’m going with Wood. Even though he lost to Lara two fights ago I feel he has more momentum and the edge in power.
- Chris Billam-Smith (WBO cruiserweight champion) – An interesting fight. Leigh Wood coming off a great win back in May, avenging a KO defeat, and Warrington coming off a majority decision loss to a superb fighter and solid puncher in [Luis Alberto] Lopez. For me it’s a pick ’em fight but due to what he overcame last time out I’m edging towards Leigh Wood.
- Jon Pegg (Trainer/Manager) – Tricky one to pick. Can make cases for both lads winning. Think Warrington will sneak a razor tight decision win in a fight where both have lots of success.
- Arnie Farnell (Trainer) I think Warrington wins by TKO. He punches a lot harder than his record suggests and his punch output is very good, and I think that will offset Wood by him not being able to set his feet to get the power he generates.
- Tony Sims (Trainer) It’s a great world domestic match up. A very good boxer against a very good fighter. I’m going to go for Leigh Wood in a very close maybe split decision win.
- Robbie Davies Jr (Former European super-lightweight champion) – I wouldn’t completely write Warrington off as he’s a great fighter but I’m going with Leigh Wood. He’s got momentum behind him and really looking the business recently and can bang. Mid to late stoppage in my opinion.
- Tony Bellew (Former WBC cruiserweight champion) It’s the hardest fight I’ve been asked to pick from for a long time! I can’t separate them! I only slightly edge towards Wood because of his last performance and his advantage with the power but this is literally a 51% to 49% pick for me. Brilliant fight.
- Richard Farnan (Cutman/Trainer) – A very 50/50 fight on paper. If the Warrington of old appears then I feel that he’ll outwork Wood to a points victory. However, if Warrington isn’t on his game and Wood starts aggressively, I can see him stopping Warrington mid rounds as at times he’s easy to hit. I’m going Wood to win via stoppage mid rounds.
- Phil Jeffries (Promoter) – Wood KO round nine. Think Warrington had some real hard fights.
- Charlie Doig (Lightweight prospect) – Leigh Wood. I think Josh Warrington is too old, he relies a lot on his punch resistance and he’s losing that I think.
- River Wilson-Bent (British middleweight contender) – I’m picking Warrington by decision because of his experience and work-rate.
- Hannah Rankin (Former WBA super-welterweight champion) – I think this is going to be a great fight, but I have Wood winning this one. I just think he’s the bigger fighter and the fact he has the option to switch hit will cause Warrington problems.
- Caoimhin Agyarko (Super-welterweight contender) – It’s a 50-50 fight. If Leigh Wood gets out of the fifth round, I think he beats Josh down the stretch, but I think Josh will come out at a high pace and try and stick it on him knowing Leigh’s tight at the weight. If Leigh gets out of the halfway point, I think he stops Josh late.
- Joe Hughes (Former European super-lightweight champion) – I think the styles will gel well. Warrington will be aggressive but in my opinion Wood will win. I think he’ll win a quite close but deserved points decision. He’s that little bit less worn, a bit fresher out the two. Even though he has been in some wars I feel like he hasn’t been in as many [as Warrington]. I think it will be a really, really good fight.
- Nick Campbell (Heavyweight prospect) – Hard to call and I expect a very competitive fight on the night. I do fancy Wood to get the win by either a late stoppage or hard-fought points decision. If I was a betting man, I’d be going for a Wood stoppage in rounds 10 to 12.
- Iain Wilson (Promoter) – Although Wood is the favourite, I think Warrington will set the pace and win on a narrow points decision.
- Jack Bateson (British featherweight contender) – Wood vs Warrington is a brilliant fight. I think it will be very exciting and stylistically will make a cracker. Leigh Wood has looked brilliant under Ben Davison, but you can never write Josh off. Styles make fights and I really believe Josh has the style and the hunger to beat Wood in what could be a fight to remember.
- Samuel Antwi (British super-welterweight champion) – I’m going for Leigh Wood in this one. He’s been able to come through the hunger to get to this point. I think he’s the fresher of the two and his knockout power will be the deciding factor in this fight.
- Jack Massey (British cruiserweight contender) – I’m picking Leigh Wood for the win. Too strong and will out-box Warrington.
Result: Wood 16 votes, Warrington six votes
And for even more industry predictions gathered together by BN press play on the video below.