Promoter Eddie Hearn can hardly believe the career trajectory of Leigh Wood.
Last Saturday night in Sheffield, England, Wood, the WBA featherweight champion, staved off a patchy start to stop Josh Warrington in dramatic fashion in the seventh round of their title bout.
Nottingham’s Wood has emerged in recent years as one of the most thrilling fighters in boxing. His March 2022 fight against Michael Conlan, in which he knocked Conlan out of the ring in the 12th round, was regarded as one of the top performances of that year.
In a post-fight interview after the fight, Matchroom boss Hearn fondly recalled how Wood went from scrounging for opportunities on undercards to becoming what he believes is the top 126-pounder in the world.
“He’s unbelievable,” Hearn told BBC 5 Live Boxing. “He was begging me for six-rounders three years ago. And I looked at Leigh Wood [as] an opponent for Josh Warrington in the (pandemic) bubble. And we all said in the office, ‘It’s a mismatch. Wood’s done.’ He’s come back. He beat Can Xu. He knocked out Conlan in the fight of the year. He lost to [Mauricio] Lara, he beat Lara in the rematch. He beat Josh Warrington. You’re talking about, now, a British boxing great, who has done it time and time again. Unbelievable.
“To put it into context, when Leigh Wood couldn’t get a fight and he was begging me for a four or six rounder, Carl Froch said to me put him on my show against Lucian Bute. You’re talking about, what 10 years ago? And I said, ‘Oh blimey, I’ll stick him on a four-rounder.’ The show went on so long he didn’t get on that night. That’s how much of a priority he was.”
Hearn also praised Wood’s trainer, Ben Davison, for helping him turn around his career.
“When he got beat by Gavin McDonnell for the British title in Hull, his career was completely over,” Hearn said. “I cannot—Ben Davison deserves a huge amount of praise because a trainer has to, to go on a run like that. You know what the thing is it’s not just like he’s fluking it and he’s just mentally on a good run.
“I think he’s the best featherweight in the world. That’s very difficult to argue with. Lopez is a great fighter but Lopez didn’t do that to Josh Warrington. Heavy, heavy handed, with a big set of cojones. But time to move up because that looked like a man there, eight, nine, 10 rounds was going to really struggle.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.