BOXING

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR BOXING PREVIEW Sat: Leigh Wood v Josh Warrington

WBA featherweight king Leigh Wood will defend his belt against former champion Josh Warrington this weekend fresh off a career best performance in May.

That victory over Mauricio Lara cemented Wood’s place at the top of the 126lb division but this is a dangerous first defence against an experienced and dangerous operator.

Leigh Wood is a major success story for British boxing. Starting out on the small hall scene, the Nottingham favourite has seen everything the sport has to offer and beat all odds to win a world title. Now a 30-fight veteran (27-3 16KO), he is looking for fights that will cement his legacy and a huge domestic clash like this will only help.

‘Leighthal’ has enjoyed some big moments in his professional career but his comprehensive points victory over Mauricio Lara back in May was one of the most impressive victories we have witnessed in a British ring. Just twelve weeks earlier, Lara silenced the Nottingham Arena by knocking Wood out cold in seven rounds and many called him crazy for even contemplating a rematch with the big punching Mexican.

However, Wood (and his trainer Ben Davison) were convinced they could win and carried out the perfect gameplan over twelve rounds to tame Lara and reclaim the coveted WBA strap. At 35, Wood is now considered a veteran but if he can continue to box the way he did against Lara the second time, he will become a very difficult man to beat.

Much like Leigh Wood, Josh Warrington is a boxing success story and one of the most likeable athletes on the circuit. In the early years, he would balance a job as a dental technician to support his career and it’s his down to earth nature that has resulted in Warrington having the biggest domestic fan base since Ricky Hatton in the early 2000s.

Already a two-time world champion, Warrington has mixed with the very best at featherweight and with a record of (31-2-1 8KO) he has nothing left to prove. The Leeds man could retire now and be happy with his achievements but he is here by choice and with his sole focus on becoming a three-time world champion, he is a dangerous assignment for anyone at 126lb.

Heading into this weekend, Warrington has only won one of his last four (one win, two losses and a draw) but it is important to look deeper into the form to get a real appreciation for where the Leeds favourite is currently at. His two defeats were against the Mauricio Lara and a razor thin decision loss to Luis Alberto Lopez, a fighter fans will be familiar with after he brutally knocked out former Olympian Michael Conlan earlier this year and a draw in his rematch with Lara was caused by an accidental head clash.

The facts are that Josh Warrington is struggling to find consistency at this point of his career but he is only losing to elite level fighters and as he proved in his recent win against Kiko Martinez, if you underestimate him, he still has the ability and engine to win at world level.

Another important factor is the weight. At Friday’s weigh in, Leigh Wood looked like he had struggled to reach the 126lb limit and that will give Warrington confidence. Fights like this are often decided on the small margins and Team Wood will be hoping their charge can rehydrate in enough time to perform at his peak once the opening bell goes.

This has all the hallmarks of a fight of the year contender and Josh Warrington has proved that he can upset the odds. This is a fight that has split the boxing community down the middle but if the weight cut has hampered Leigh Wood, Josh Warrington can take full advantage and become a three-time featherweight world champion. (7/4)

JORDAN NEILD


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