Every era has fighters whose contests, win or lose, demand our attention. They are men whose combination of talent, heart, vulnerability, and sudden power mean that no matter how dire a situation appears, they might just snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The early 80s junior lightweight rivalry between Bobby Chacon, Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Rolando Navarrete, and “Bazooka” Limon all seemed to share those traits and spent several years delivering classics together. Arturo Gatti was the embodiment of it.
Leigh Wood has been in their neighborhood in the last few years. With stoppages in five of his last fights, four in his favor and one against, Wood’s fights are becoming regular thrill rides in boxing. Since a loss to Jazza Dickens in early 2020, there’s been nary a dull moment.
It was the case again on Saturday in an excellent backyard brawl with UK rival Josh Warrington. Wood was making his first start since avenging a knockout loss to Maurico Lara in his last fight. His roller coaster 2023 continued Saturday with Warrington well ahead on all cards after six rounds.
In picking Warrington to win here, the thinking was he was too quick, more athletic, and better able to work the body. An educated forehead wasn’t going to hurt either and an early head clash left Wood with a mouse under his right eye. A punch caused a cut later on.
Wood was losing another frame, the seventh, when everything changed. A right hand Warrington never saw coming left him waving in the wind. Wood kept finding home for the right until Warrington hit the deck and the bell sounded.
One can argue that Warrington, who beat the count and headed to his corner, should have been given a better look in the corner or his minute to recover. It’s a fair argument. But the referee had a fighter with his back to him for too long and opted against the risk. It was understandable.
It was also as dramatic as it gets. In wins over Lara, Can Xu, Michael Conlan, and now Warrington, Wood has made it a must to stay on the edge of your seat from bell to bell. It’s hard not to be a fan of fighters like that.
Futures: For Warrington, it is a biting defeat, the third in his last five fights against only one win. A rematch is Warrington’s best-case scenario. The former featherweight titlist was doing everything right until he got it wrong for the absolute worst split second. Whether they could do it again at featherweight remains to be seen.
Wood could as easily attempt a move to 130 pounds as he moves forward and would have the chance to stay making good local money. Titlist Joe Cordina of Wales, a 2016 Olympian, is undefeated and still building his name to the world. If Wood did stick around at featherweight, could he try to line himself up for the inevitable arrival of Naoya Inoue, assuming Inoue completes the unification of junior featherweight? It’s possible and while Wood would be a huge underdog it would be a payday well earned.
The same-day coronation of the Shigeoka brothers at strawweight gave the division a jolt. 105 pounds is rarely a hot spot, though it delivers its occasional classic. Both brothers hold consecutive top ten wins in the class based on the rankings of TBRB or Ring Magazine and now both hold belts as well. Perhaps they could do twin unification bouts to keep the fires going? It would be a fun promotional hook…Didn’t see the Bermudez-Clavel fight so not sure about the scoring there. Did see Harper-Braekhus and the draw wasn’t unreasonable…This has been a good year for old school non-title fights. Gilberto Ramirez-Joe Smith was a solid bout between solid pros who both sought to prove they have something left to give. Ramirez won big on the cards, and should have, but Smith made him work for it.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]