Leigh Wood and Josh Warrington during Filming for ‘Face Off” with Ade Oladipo of DAZN ahead of their WBA Featherweight World Title next Month at the Utilita Arena Sheffield. Picture By Ian Walton Matchroom Boxing
Nottingham’s Leigh Wood is just days away from defending his WBA Featherweight World Title against domestic rival Josh Warrington in a huge all-British clash on neutral ground at the Utilita Arena Sheffield, live worldwide on DAZN

Ahead of this Saturday’s highly anticipated showdown, both men sat down with Ade Oladipo to film a special feature length Face Off, as the build-up to what promises to be one of the biggest fights of the year continues.

Nottingham favourite Wood (27-3, 16 KOs) produced a 12-round masterclass against Mexico’s hard-hitting dangerman Mauricio Lara to reclaim his WBA 126lbs crown last time out in May at Manchester’s AO Arena to become Britain’s latest two-time World Champion. 

Leeds hero Warrington (31-2-1, 8 KOs) is aiming to become a three-time Featherweight World Champion after surrendering his IBF belt to Mexico’s Luis Alberto Lopez following a close points loss at the First Direct Arena last December – his first defeat in his home city. 

Leigh Wood:
Did you ever think you were going to get your opportunities for big fights?
“There were times when I thought I wasn’t going to get the opportunities. There were times when I thought it might pass me by. I always knew I was good enough to win these fights and be at this level. But I thought, ‘Am I going to get these opportunities?’ When I was sat there in the gym in Sheffield and things would come in and fall through all the time. I was going back to my flat and I was crying some days. All I wanted was a chance. I would have fought anyone. One time there was talks, Frampton’s opponent pulled out of a show. I think it was about three weeks’ notice. I told my management I’d take it. That’s how desperate I was getting at the time. There were times when I thought it may not ever happen.”
How did this one come about?
“I’d been on my own path. I got the opportunity for the World Title, I won the World Title, and then I had to defend against Conlan because they were sorting the belt situation out. That was out of my hands. Then I got a choice of who to fight and Josh had a fight at the time for the World Title so the next best person for me was the person that beat him. This fight for me made sense because I thought it was going to happen at the City Ground. The best person, probably one of the only opponents in that division to headline that fight at the City Ground, was Josh. It makes perfect sense. The rivalries, the cities and the clubs. I was gunning for the fight. Once we’d sorted negotiating the fight, we found out we couldn’t have it at the City Ground, the fight was made so it was like, ‘let’s just do it anyway’.
Do you think Josh is a dirty fighter?
“No I don’t. Without giving too much away I think Josh is good on the inside. He does the right things, head down, hips back. I think if you don’t know what you’re doing in those situations, and you stay where you are – you’re going to clash heads. I can see why people get cut. If you look at other fighters he’s boxed, it’s not been a problem. It depends what you’re doing as his opponent.”
What kind of atmosphere do you expect it to be?
“I think it’s going to be great. The Conlan fight – the atmosphere was unbelievable. The fans battle back and forth. When it’s your own arena and you fill it yourself, you get the entrance – sometimes it goes a little bit quiet. You need a reason to keep going. When my fans hear his fans, and his fans hear my fans – they’re going to keep going.”
Do you think you can knock Josh out?
“Yeah. I’ve been ringside for his last three fights, I’ve seen him get hurt. I know he’s tough. I don’t believe the people he’s been hurt by hit as hard as me and at the same time aren’t as calculated as me, so they might land a few good shots but are they good finishers? Have they got good set ups? I don’t think they have. I think Lara is a big puncher, not calculated, he doesn’t do what he needs to do. He’s not a great finisher in the sense like, gets someone hurt and knows what he’s got to do to set it up. He rushes sometimes, but I believe I’m one of the biggest punchers in the division. Not only that, I can set it up and I’m calculated.”
Leigh, how does it play out?
“I believe he’s going to make the same mistakes he makes and do the same things he always does. I know that I’m going to be dominant the majority of the fight. I’m going to beat him up at times as well. I’m here to win and he’s here to win as well. I know what I need to do to win and I’m confident of doing it.”
Do you remind each other of yourselves?
“He’s a family man. He’s like a Leeds version of me. I’ve said it before, a Leeds version of me who doesn’t box as well as me or punch as hard as me, or has a team that’s in the Premier League. Apart from that, we’re bang on the same. I look and him and familiarise myself with how he conducts himself. A lot of people that know him, mutual friends, say he’s a great guy. It’s irrelevant on fight night, I’m coming to win. After yeah, we’ll have a drink.”
Josh Warrington:
When did Leigh go onto your radar?
“When I first started coming through I think Leigh was probably around the same level that I was at the time. We were probably looking for British Title fights, domestic title fights. I think at the time he’d taken to Twitter, mentioned my name a few times. I thought our paths might have crossed earlier to be honest with you. Recent times – the last 12 to 18 months I’d say.”
Josh is this one that you wanted as well?
“Yeah, it’s natural. Boxing has been booming in this country, in the UK shows. Big fights have been made, no bigger than the domestic rivalry. I’ve had a fair few of them over recent years. Selby, Frampton, Kid Galahad – everyone loves a domestic rivalry. To be fair I’ve been part of Leigh’s success in some kind of way, because if I’d have got through Lara behind closed doors then Leigh would never have got that chance against Can Xu. I’d have boxed Can Xu, may have gone to America – I might be retired by now! Things happen, and he’s faced one of my former opponents who I didn’t manage to get a win over – he has. So I feel like I’ve been part of his journey.”
Do you question whether or not you’ve still got what it takes to compete at the very top level Josh? It is one win in your last four.
“If I listened to the critics I would never have got to the level that I’ve achieved now. I started off slow in my last one, and that’s it – I’ve seen better days. It were me who finished on top at the end. I still feel like I’m in my prime. I really do. I’m feeling top of my game right now.”
What kind of atmosphere do you expect it to be?
“It’s going to be a hell of an atmosphere in the city, never mind the arena. I think Sheffield are playing Huddersfield, so there’s another Yorkshire side in the city. It’s going to be a great night. These are the fights I fu***ng live for. These give me a semi on! It’s good to be part of. When you’re in there and you’re throwing the shots – you have to pause a minute and think, ‘this is living the dream’ – I can’t wait to be in there.”
Do you remind each other of yourselves?
“Leigh will go alongside people on my phonebook like Carl Frampton. I respected Carl before the fight. We had a fight of the year. People want to see us tearing each other out. But we’re old school fighters and real fans will know what we’re capable of bringing to the table. It’s not our style to go to press conference and start screaming and shouting and slagging each other off. It’s mutual respect. We go to the gym, we train hard and we go home to our families. When it’s time to turn it on it’s time to turn it on. Once the business is done, we shake hands.”
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