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Boxing: Johnny Nelson previews Martinez v Warrington and looks back on Wood v Conlan

Kiko Martinez against Josh Warrington, in Leeds, what a fight.

These two fought in 2017, and Warrington beat Martinez on a majority decision and that was at a time when Josh Warrington was flying all of a sudden, he was an unknown entity and the fighters he beat, he beat the best of the best that we knew of, the Framptons, the Selbys, Kid Galahad.

His engine was mad; Martinez thought he could’ve done better, he’s always wanted the rematch, he’s always thought he has the beating of Warrington and many of us looked at Warrington and thought he’s not a banger, he’s not really got anything special but he’s got an amazing engine.

He’s older now, he’s suffered a knockout that could scar a lot of people, so for him it’s a case of all of a sudden he realises he’s mortal because the knockout he received was devastating. How’s he doing? How does he handle it? How does he get through it?

So again, for Josh Warrington. he knows he’s beaten the likes of Martinez, but remember when he got knocked out against Mauricio Lara and then came back and got the draw – which was his last fight – that was because of a cut, I thought it was going to go exactly the same way. He looked vulnerable, he looked like the right shot at the right time would actually take him out.

The problem is Martinez doesn’t have that youth and freshness to bring what Lara brought to Warrington, so I think Warrington is going to have just a little bit too much, be a bit too sharp, too busy. His biggest mistake will be trying to fight fire with fire, trying to stand there having a toe-to-toe because if you do that, you give anyone a chance.

Warrington will want to get his old IBF title back, and it’s funny how it’s gone round. Warrington was stepping up in weight because he struggled to make the weight after the Lara knockout; Martinez knocked out Kid Galahad to capture the title, and straight away Warrington’s thinking, ‘you know what, I can make the weight, I’ve got to step back down again.’

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What does he do after this? I think he beats Martinez on points. He has to be sharp and smart and have an amazing tempo. Does he stay at featherweight or step up? When he boxed Lara, the word was that he struggled to make the weight. What’s changed? He’s got older, so it’s not that anything’s changed, he’s just got an opportunity to get a world title.

If he steps up, he’s going to do what Kid Galahad’s done, and step up because he’s struggling to make the weight, but then again, there’s an intriguing fight between he and Galahad if he does step up. Or does he stay down at featherweight? We don’t know. Common sense would be that he gets the win, gets the title, and steps up – for health reasons as well.

I expect excellent pace, I expect a smart game plan and if he pulls that off, he gets the win on points.

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Leigh Wood is a fighter that I’ve known from time, he used to train at our gym, his boxing ability was second to none; the only thing I questioned was his heart and his dig-deep ability. He showed that in the fight against Conlan, who was ahead on points.

Conlan was doing the right thing, he put him down in the first round and had him all over the place in the first four rounds, but he dug in deep.

But one thing Wood said was ‘he’s not walked in my shoes, he’s not had the ups and down, he’s not had that gut test’. Wood went through that gut test, he could take the pressure. Conlan was starting to tire towards the end, Wood was putting the pressure on. Like Evander Holyfield, even if he’s losing, he’s going to fight until his last breath and that’s exactly what he did and he took Conlan out.

There could be a rematch. If I was Wood I wouldn’t take the rematch, not yet anyway. I’d make some money out of being the champion, then creating a big money fight with Conlan, because people will pay to see that again, because Conlan was doing an amazing job to that point.

For Conlan, will it change him? Has he ever had such a concussive knockout? No he hasn’t, but the frustrating thing when you’re fighting a man and you’ve got his number and you’re beating him and you get knocked out, you think ‘my goodness, I’ve tripped over as I’ve got to the finish line’ so I think that’s one fight where Conlan will think ‘you know what, I can get through this, I know what this guy can do, but I know what I can do better.’

He wants that fight and he’ll wait for that fight. He’ll keep dogging Leigh Wood, who doesn’t have to take it. As a businessman, Wood can say ‘nah, I’m not doing it yet’, or he can ask for the crown jewels, and they’ll have to pay him if he wants the fight because that’ll be a big fight, especially in Ireland.

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