Some good fights come with almost a hint of surprise, a moment of ‘that’s right, they haven’t fought yet’ when they’re announced.
They’re fights that make sense.
This Saturday in Sheffield (DAZN, 2 PM EST) is one of those fights. Two of the most consistent presences in the featherweight division in recent years, both products of the United Kingdom, will lock horns in front of their fellow nationals. Leigh Wood versus Josh Warrington.
It just makes sense.
It also comes at a sensible moment for both men.
35-year old featherweight titlist Leigh Wood (27-3, 17 KO) has already had a wild 2023. Wood started the year with a defense against Mauricio Lara that went well until it didn’t. Leading on all cards after six rounds, Wood fell victim to the power of his foe and it was easy to wonder if he could rebound.
Wood was knocked out in February. He was there with his hand raised in May, tackling the immediate rematch and forging forward even after Lara missed weight by nearly an entire weight class. The reward was dropping Lara twice en route to a lopsided decision win, another example of the toughness Wood has made his reputation on. It was on display against Can Xu, against Michael Conlan in a classic, and on display in the grit it took to go right back at Lara and believe he could win.
32-year old challenger Josh Warrington (31-2-1, 8 KO) has shown grit as well. He’s often boxing’s version of bringing a knife to a gunfight. While he can score stoppages occasionally, scoring two in his last five fights, Warrington wins with volume and the willingness to keep coming often against heavier handed foes.
Like Wood, he suffered a stoppage at the hands of Lara, his first fight after losing his IBF featherweight belt outside the ring. Warrington had a nice run in that first reign, winning the belt from Lee Selby and defending against former titlist Carl Frampton and future titlist Kid Galahad. After the Lara rematch ended early on a technical draw, it was enough to wonder if Warrington had hit his limit.
He’s hung around, splitting fights with Kiko Martinez to briefly regain the IBF and then losing to Luis Alberto Lopez. Heading into this weekend, Warrington is the younger man but potentially the more desperate.
Consecutive losses are never where anyone wants to be.
Then again, what a loss looks like can matter and this feels like a fight that could easily lead to a return. Considering the clash of styles and strengths, this is the sort of fight that makes sense and could sensibly lead to a late career series for a couple of fighters whose best option is each other. Neither man is likely to move past other class in the division right now like Lopez, Robeisy Ramirez, Rey Vargas, or Brandon Figueroa.
It won’t matter if they can fill seats and delight their home fans.
This should be a fun fight. After a week with a super fight that was anything but, that’s more than enough for a week.
The undercard clash is interesting. Terri Harper has reheated her career at junior middleweight while former welterweight queen Cecilia Braekhus is hanging on to her career by a thread. Can Braekhus pull herself back up?…Gilberto Ramirez-Joe Smith Jr. has the makings of a nasty affair. Both competing now at cruiserweight, expect a lot of heavy leather in this one…Tim Hornbaker’s new book on Ric Flair is highly recommended. It’s exhaustively researched and much heavier on detail than colorful anecdote but it’s a fascinating look at a whole era in that industry…Japan has an interesting strawweight doubleheader this weekend but it’s strawweight so it’s unlikely to lead to anything more. Unification at strawweight is hard to come by…October has enough boxing to keep the chains moving but there is a lot of room for a big finish in November and December. Several big fights lack dates. They’re coming.
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]