All eyes are on Nottingham’s own Leigh Wood as he gears up to defend his WBA Featherweight World Title against Josh Warrington. They’re set to face off at the Utilita Arena Sheffield, and boxing fans worldwide will be catching every punch live on DAZN.
As we inch closer to this Saturday’s electric fight, both fighters gave us a little treat. They sat down with the charismatic Ade Oladipo for a one-of-a-kind interview, adding even more heat to the already boiling anticipation for this significant fight.
Now, if you’ve been out of the loop, here’s a refresher: Leigh Wood, the pride of Nottingham (with a record of 27-3, 16 KOs), recently showcased his boxing finesse with a 12-round domination against Mauricio Lara, the Mexican powerhouse. This win in May at Manchester’s AO Arena made him Britain’s newest two-time World Champ in the 126lbs division. A pretty neat feat, right?
Leeds’ golden boy, Josh Warrington, sporting a record of 31-2-1 with 8 KOs, Warrington’s on a mission to win the Featherweight World Champion title for the third time. But, there’s a twist: he gave up his IBF belt to Mexico’s Luis Alberto Lopez after a nail-bitingly close points loss at the First Direct Arena last December. And to top it off, it was his maiden loss in his hometown. Ouch.
Question: Did you ever feel you’d miss out on major fights?
Leigh Wood: At times, I felt my chances were slipping away. Even though I always believed I had the skill to win significant fights, I often wondered if those chances would ever come my way. I remember those days in Sheffield, training hard and facing multiple setbacks. There were days I felt overwhelmed with disappointment. All I yearned for was one real chance. I recall once, when Frampton needed an opponent on short notice, I instantly said I was ready. That’s how eager I was then. Sometimes, I felt like it might just remain a dream.
Question: How did this fight opportunity arise?
Leigh Wood: I’ve always followed my own journey. After winning the World Title and defending it against Conlan due to some belt complications, I was given the liberty to choose my next opponent. With Josh gearing up for his own World Title fight, the logical choice seemed to be the one who defeated him. This fight was something I had envisioned, especially at the City Ground, given our backgrounds, the clubs, and cities we represent. Though later, when the City Ground venue fell through, we both agreed to go ahead with the fight.
Question: Do you perceive Josh as fighting unfairly?
Leigh Wood: No, I don’t see Josh that way. He’s skillful, especially in close-range situations. If one doesn’t adapt in such moments, unintentional head clashes can occur. I’ve observed that with other opponents, this hasn’t been a significant issue. It’s more about how you adapt to his style.
Question: What kind of ambiance are you anticipating?
Leigh Wood: I expect a lively atmosphere. The energy during the Conlan fight was surreal, with fans cheering non-stop. An electrifying environment pushes you further. With both our supporters cheering on, it’ll be relentless.
Question: Do you believe you have the power to defeat Josh?
Leigh Wood: Absolutely. I’ve closely observed his recent three fights. He’s been vulnerable at times. I feel some of his past opponents might have landed good hits but lacked the strategy I possess. For instance, Lara has strength but sometimes lacks a strategic approach. I believe I carry significant strength in this division, paired with a calculated approach.
Question: Leigh, what’s your game plan?
Leigh Wood: I anticipate he’ll repeat certain mistakes. I see myself maintaining dominance throughout. While I’m here to secure a victory, I respect that he’s here with the same intent. I’m clear about my strategy and highly optimistic about its execution.
Question: Do you see any similarities between the two of you?
Leigh Wood: In many ways, yes. He’s dedicated to his family, just like I am. He could be seen as a version of me from Leeds. Though, I believe I have an edge in boxing techniques, strength, and my team’s overall performance. Outside the ring, from what I’ve heard, he’s a great individual. But on the fight night, it’s all about the victory. After that, sure, we might share a friendly drink.
On when he noticed Leigh:
“Leigh first appeared on my radar when we were both emerging contenders. We were both aiming for the same domestic titles and I remember him mentioning me a couple of times on social media. I always thought our paths would cross sooner, but it’s been in the last year and a half that he really came into focus for me.”
On the significance of this fight:
“This fight feels like the next natural step in the boxing narrative here in the UK. The country has seen a surge in boxing popularity, and nothing excites fans like a domestic rivalry. I’ve had my share with Selby, Frampton, and Kid Galahad. Interestingly, part of Leigh’s success is indirectly due to me. Had I defeated Lara in a closed-door match, Leigh might never have had his opportunity against Can Xu. But fate had its way, and now our journeys have intersected.”
On doubts and his recent performance:
“I’ve learned to tune out the critics. If I had paid attention to them, I wouldn’t have reached the heights I have. Sure, I might have had a slow start in my last fight, but by the end, I was the dominant force. Even with the ups and downs, I still feel like I’m in the prime of my career.”
On the expected atmosphere of the fight:
“The city will be buzzing on fight night, even beyond the arena. With Sheffield playing Huddersfield, it’s bound to be a lively night for all of Yorkshire. I absolutely thrive in such an atmosphere. The energy, the anticipation—it’s moments like these that I live for. When you’re in the thick of the action, sometimes you need to take a brief pause and appreciate that you’re truly living your dream.”
On mutual respect and similarities:
“When I look at Leigh, he reminds me of fighters like Carl Frampton. There was immense respect between Carl and me before our bout, and despite the fierce contest, our appreciation for each other remained. Fans love to watch us go head-to-head, but we’re both old school. There’s no need for shouting matches or public disputes. We both prioritize hard work in the gym and value time with our families. On fight night, we bring our all, but once it’s over, we’re back to respecting one another.”