Josh Warrington’s manager, Steve Wood, is still replaying the events of Saturday night.
With his man well on the way to becoming a three-time featherweight world champion, Wood watched on helplessly as Leigh Wood salvaged his WBA title with a stunning and controversial seventh round stoppage.
We will get to the stoppage soon but, earlier in the seventh round, Alexander had taken a point away from Warrington for hitting behind the head. Wood feels that Alexander’s decision to penalize his man was a key factor in the way the fight ended.
“I just know that when Michael Alexander took that point off him, it made him chase a fight he was in control of,” Wood told BoxingScene.com. “I spoke to him [Josh] and he said he knew he was winning but didn’t realize he was so far in front. He just went after getting that point back, got sloppy and got caught.”
As aggrieved as Warrington’s team were at the point deduction, events that took place a few seconds later totally overshadowed that decision. Dropped and hurt by a spectacular, fight saving combination from Wood as the bell sounded to end the round, Warrington climbed to his feet and made his way to his own corner where he turned away from Alexander and leant on the ropes, looking at his corner team. With the count at eight, Warrington turned around to see the referee waving the fight off.
“I’ve got a clip where it shows that he had turned around,” Wood said. “He [Alexander] was saying that because he hadn’t turned around, he couldn’t make a judgement. He’s waved it off in front of him, knowing the bell had gone. It’s terrible.
“I understand the bell doesn’t save you but he was up. He was up after four. It wasn’t like it got waved off at eight because he was still on the floor. He did turn around.”
No matter how many different angles emerge of the stoppage, they won’t change the result. Wood’s job now is to capitalize on the situation he and Warrington find themselves in. There are plenty of precedents. Howard Foster’s controversial decision to step in and stop George Groves in the ninth round of his 2013 classic with Carl Froch created a monster of a rematch and Warrington himself sold out Headingley Rugby League Stadium for his return with Mauricio Lara in 2021. A rematch between Wood and Warrington at The City Ground in Nottingham might end up being one of the biggest fights of 2024.
“The last time, when Josh got beat by Lara he got a big fight and payday on the strength of the rematch. It looks like that could possibly happen again if Eddie [Hearn] and them stick to their word,” Wood said.
“They can build it up, that’s for sure. I don’t even think the [Micheal] Conlan rematch would sell that stadium out anything like the way the Josh fight could.
“We can’t change anything now. We just have to make sure he gets that rematch. They’ll eye up the numbers. Apparently they’ve already said that they’re happy to do it. He [Wood] will have a fight with anybody him so there shouldn’t be a problem with this.”
Before the fight, Wood’s struggles to make the 126lb limit were common knowledge and, afterwards, he confirmed that he will never fight at featherweight again. Having boxed at featherweight for his entire 14-year career, Warrington insisted that he would be happy to move up to super featherweight himself in order to make the rematch happen. An immediate rematch is the priority but if – for whatever reason – Wood and Hearn decide to go in a different direction, Warrington still has business he would like to attend to at featherweight.
“Wood has obviously got to go up, so we’ll go up too,” Wood said. “I just don’t think that 4lb makes much of a difference for them. Josh will have 4lb extra too. He was stronger than him and throwing him around like a rag doll so I’m not sure it’ll make much of a difference.
“Let’s say we got the WBC featherweight champion [Rey Vargas] in America. We could do that too.”