A throwback to the golden age. A leading contender for the fight of this year.
A knock-out to light up any show-reel. A savage. dazzling reminder of how glorious the best of British fights can be.
A victory snatched from a battered jaw of impending defeat.
Despite being two-time world champions Leigh Wood and Josh Warrington were not the most renowned of pugilists as they entered the ring on Saturday night.
But the Nottingham nobleman and the Leeds warrior left the neutral battleground of Sheffield with their names etched into the litany of our domestic sport.
Leigh Wood plucked a knockout from the teeth of a beating to stop Josh Warrington
A devastating combination of multiples lefts and rights sent Warrington to the canvas
Wood departed as still the WBA featherweight king, Warrington with head high and any notion of retirement banished despite his abrupt and unexpected flattening.
All this tinged also by a whiff of controversy and a hint that they may well do it all over again. Yes, please. At whatever weight you can agree since both announced they are moving up a division.
With Wood, as the victor, is demanding that his next fight realises his career-long dream of boxing at the City Ground of his beloved Nottingham Forest. Be it against Warrington, fellow British world super-feather weight champion Joe Cordina or in a rematch with Michael Conlan who he also destroyed out of nowhere when a country mile behind in the scoring.
This time he was trailing Warrington by five rounds to one on the cards of two of the three judges – and your correspondent’s for that matter.
The only round awardable to Wood was the first, in which he did hurt his challenger. By the time he did so again, apocalyptically, he had been barnstormed by Warrington’s human dynamo aggression. Suffering salvoes of left hooks of which at least three had sent him to the staggering precipice of defeat.
So much punishment did he ship that Eddie Hearn, the promoter of both, admitted: ‘Leigh was heroic but I couldn’t see him surviving the eighth round.’
True to form Warrington came storming out from the first bell in Sheffield on Saturday night
As it happened, he only had to make it to the fag end of the seventh. A stupendous combination of multiple lefts and rights transformed Warrington from dominant to demolished. Which was where the controversy came in.
So close was his flattening to the bell that although he looked out on his feet when he regained the perpendicular he argued that the referee should have given him his minute to recover on his stool before waving it off.
Michael Alexander explained that he was so discombobulated that he stayed with his back to the ring, unable to turn and face the action for the last few second, as required and requested.
Warrington’s frustration was understandable. He had boxed the best first half of a fight in his career, only to be caught cold when in the ascendancy. That can happen to any boxer and he said: ‘After this I can’t see any reason to quit. I would love the rematch.’
Gallantly, after his great escape, Wood concurred: ‘If doing this again at the City Ground works, fine be me. Josh deserves another chance.’
He credited his latest trainer for transforming him from ‘a featherweight unlikely to win the British title into a double world champion.’
Make that potentially a treble if Cordina comes to the party.
Wood unleashed the deadliest lefts and rights combinations of all to send Warrington down
Ben Davison, that inspirational mentor, said: ‘I knew that one of the biggest pound-for-pound punchers in the world was waiting to be unlocked.’
Wood’s validation of that assessment was breathtaking to behold.
He and Warrington gave everything. And then some. Gave it to we in the arena and those watching the live transmission.
Most importantly of all, gave it to boxing at a time when the hard old game was in need of an injection of a thriller in the grand tradition of British bust ups.