All eyes will be on the Sheffield Arena this weekend as Josh Warrington bids to become a three-time world champion.
The 32Red ambassador returns to the ring to take on WBA featherweight champion, Leigh Wood, in what appears to be a sure-fire ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate. For all the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.
“I’m very confident, very fired up”
Warrington has endured a difficult ten months since losing his IBF title to Alberto Lopez last December but has channeled his frustration and anger into his preparations for Wood.
‘The Leeds Warrior’ has been here before. He is the small hall fighter who was never meant to make it this far. He was written off and doubted before ripping the IBF world title belt away from Lee Selby on a memorable night at Elland Road and again before his outstanding victory over former world champion, Carl Frampton. He bounced back from a heartbreaking loss to Mauricio Lara to reclaim his title from Kiko Martinez.
Can Warrington once again silence the doubters?
“I’ve got my teeth into this one. I’m very confident for it. I’m very fired up as well. That’s not to say that I wasn’t fired up for the last one – I always am – but there’s just something even more going into this one. I feel like I’ve got the bit between my teeth.
“I’ve had a lot of people doubting me and I feel like I thrive off that. At the same time, the confidence I have these days is different. Even if a session maybe isn’t as good as it should have been, my head hasn’t dipped at any point. I haven’t doubted myself at any point. I’ve always believed and I still believe that on Saturday I’ll be a three-time world champion.
“My mindset has matured a lot”
“It feels like normal this time. The two fights I had last year, my mindset going into both of them was completely different. I’d beaten Kiko Martinez before but though he was still very dangerous, I was very, very relaxed all the way through the whole build up. The Lopez fight was different. For four or five weeks before it I was having sleepless nights. It was so much of a mental rollercoaster. I can’t put my finger on why but it’s just how it was. This time around I feel like I’m back to how I was before Martinez. I’m very confident. I’m focused on the job and I just can’t wait to get in there now.
“This is a familiar feeling to being written off before the fights with Lee Selby and Carl Frampton. My mindset has certainly matured a lot since then but when people start to write you off and make their own assumptions it motivates me. You know the type of thing, ‘He’s seen better days’ or ‘He might be past it blah, blah, blah.’ Look, Leigh’s three years older than me and they’re putting him on a higher pedestal than me. It gets my back up. I can’t explain it enough.
“I’ve always thrived off the support of the people who get behind me but as soon as someone says that I can’t do it, something else comes out of me. I want to prove to you that I can. I’m constantly trying to impress. I’ve carried that energy throughout this camp. There might be a training session when I feel a bit tired or something like that but you just have to think about something that you’ve read online or something that you’ve heard something say. All of a sudden, you’re pumped and ready to go. That’s the mentality I’ve had right through this camp.
“I keep getting asked about Leigh being on a good run of form. Well, in what way?
“I certainly didn’t think I’d be entertaining Leigh”
“You can’t knock Leigh’s performance against Xu Can. I was well impressed with it. He boxed to a gameplan. He was very clean and economical with his shots. I was watching it thinking, ‘This is the monster? This is the man who is meant to throw one thousand punches in twelve rounds?’ Leigh didn’t allow him to do that but Xu had no urgency about him. After the fight I did a post mortem and started to dissect Xu’s record. I looked through the fights he’d had and who he’d beaten and started to wonder how he was ranked number three. He had one good win against Manny Robles. That’s no fault of Leigh’s. He beat who was in front of him.
“He beat Reece Mould. I know how hard Reece worked to make the weight but, yeah, that was a good win and then he had the Xu Can win but after that there was Michael Conlan. He was down on his backside and had a very, very, very hard fight. He showed a massive heart and massive bollocks to come through it but if that fight goes to the judge’s scorecards, does he get the decision? After that, congrats for taking a fight against Mauricio Lara who got famous from my name and he gets stopped. You can talk about how he was boxing during that fight but on paper in the history books he gets stopped. Obviously in the rematch, the gloss is kind of taken off because of Lara missing weight. He certainly didn’t look like the killer that he was before.
“I certainly didn’t think I’d be entertaining Leigh. Prior to lockdown we were considering him as a sparring partner if I were to box Xu Can. It’s crazy how things go.
“Everyone talks about Leigh’s power and how hard he hits but I’m sure anybody at world level can hit. Kiko Martinez certainly can. Look, it’s about not allowing him to have the time or the distance. Not allowing him to dictate. When he can dictate he feels comfortable. You have to take that away.
“Three-time. Bloody hell. It meant a lot to be just a world champion, let alone a three-time champion. It’s gonna be a good Christmas that’s for sure, it’s been a long ten months. It’s been one of the most frustrating years of my boxing career. I’ve had to wait, I’ve been told I’ll get this and told I’ll get that. I’ve been told I’ll be going to America. So many different things have come and gone. It’s time for us to be back where I feel I deserve to be and see what comes after that. Hopefully, Eddie can pull his finger out and get us across to the States.”