Leigh Wood and Josh Warrington battle it out in a world title fight that has all the ingredients to be one of the most thrilling contests of the year. Stateside, two fighters look to bounce back from losses with a new weight class in their sights.
Leigh Wood-Josh Warrington – Wood Rounds 7-12
Leigh Wood defends his WBA Featherweight World Title against Josh Warrington in Sheffield – a middle ground between their beloved Nottingham and Leeds. The domestic grudge match is widely tipped to be in the conversation for Fight of the Year when all’s said and done.
Both men have shown time and again that they cannot be written off, and the nature of the match-up means how it goes down is up in the air. The pick here is based off momentum, which lies solely with Wood. He has four victories from the last six, and that includes an avenged defeat, whereas Warrington’s world title win over Kiko Martinez is his sole victory since 2019.
What’s more, Wood proved in the rematch with Mauricio Lara last time out that he can box strictly to a game plan. If he can find his range on Warrington’s crowd-pleasing but dangerous style, a stoppage is worth a look. The Nottingham man’s last five knockouts have come in the ninth round or later.
Terri Harper-Cecilia Braekhus – Harper Points
Terri Harper puts her WBA super welterweight title on the line against Norway’s Cecilia Braekhus, with the winner also taking home the vacant WBO strap.
Braekhus is a former undisputed champion and history-maker in the sport, backed by a kickboxing stint and a great amateur career. There’s no questions she’s coming to the end of her campaign, though.
Harper has shown enough speed and power at 154lbs to keep her opponents honest, and at 42-years-old with 39 fights plus a period of inactivity, Braekhus will do well to keep up for the duration. It’s likely going to be cagey and close to kick off, but Harper’s youth and impressive jab should see her take a commanding lead as the final bell nears.
Gilberto Ramirez-Joe Smith Jr – Ramirez KO, TKO or DQ
Gilberto Ramirez missed weight so badly in March that his scheduled fight was cancelled altogether. This weekend he takes a step closer to cruiserweight for a catchweight bout at 193lbs against Joe Smith Jr.
‘Zurdo’ and Smith are moving on from light heavyweight. For one, it will be the start of a fresh campaign, the other a devastating blow. Both are coming off losses to champions in Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev. Ramirez managed the distance against Bivol but was thoroughly outclassed, whilst Smith went for broke against Beterbiev and paid the price with a second-round knockout.
It’s that come forward aggressive style that might just play into the Mexican’s hands. You can never count out ‘The Common Man’, but if Ramirez can slip by the big hooks and get his work off on the inside, he’s 10/11 for the stoppage.