Leigh Wood recognises how dangerous Josh Warrington is as the underdog ahead of their all-British world featherweight title showdown in Sheffield on Saturday.
Warrington’s signature wins against Lee Selby and Carl Frampton five years ago upset the odds and the Leeds fighter heads into this weekend with his opponent favoured by bookmakers.
Wood believes how he fares in the first defence of his second reign as WBA champion could determine how his own career pans out.
Victory over Warrington, who is targeting a bout in Las Vegas if he prevails, would move Wood a step closer to a long-held ambition of fighting at his beloved City Ground, home of Nottingham Forest.
“This is his last chance to get back into title contention,” Wood told the PA news agency.
“He wants his American dream – he knows he’s got to win this fight and that’s what makes him so dangerous.
“I’ve been up for this for a number of years, it’s one that’s going to cement my name, not just as the best featherweight in Britain but one of the best featherweights in the world.
“It’s taken a long time to get here. It’s not been an overnight thing, I’ve had to work my a*** off. It’s been a long hard journey and this is my graduation, you could say.”
Both fighters wore the scarves of their favourite football team. Warrington pulled up a Leeds scarf over his mouth while Wood had the red and white of Nottingham Forest over his shoulders.
A brief but intense stare-off gave way to smiles as the pair shook hands before gesturing to the crowd, with Warrington screaming ‘and the new’ as Wood cut a more relaxed figure.
For Wood, who could step up to super-featherweight after this bout due to the demands of getting down to featherweight, facing Warrington has been a long time in the making.
Five years ago, Wood (27-3, 16KOs) by his own admission was struggling to make a name for himself and after being egged on by a friend, he directed a tweet at Warrington more in hope than expectation.
“I was sat in a restaurant with my friend and he just asked why didn’t I call someone out? It wasn’t really my thing but Josh Warrington was the best in the division at the time.
“I went on Twitter and did this video and it got about three likes or something. No-one even saw it. Five years later, we’ve come full circle.”
Warrington (31-2-1, 8KOs) jumps straight back into world title contention after dropping his IBF crown in December last year following a narrow points loss to Luis Alberto Lopez.
“We are ready for absolutely anything,” he told PA. “We’ve gone over and over all the different things that he can do. We have looked at all the different scenarios that we can bring and are ready for each and every one of them.”