“The higher you build your barriers, the taller I become”
Nottingham Forest fan, ‘Leighthal’ Leigh Wood, finally steps back into the ring this weekend, opposing Doncaster’s Reece Mould for the vacant British featherweight title, at Wembley Arena.
However, the contest took on extra meaning recently, Wood being the first Nottingham fighter to appear since the recent passing of Nicky ‘1 Smooth’ Booth, a loss that hit the fight game and prompted Leigh to announce that he’ll be making his ring-walk to Booth’s music, ‘Something Inside So Strong,’ the late-eighties classic by Labi Siffre.
The affinity in which the Nottingham fighters, and other sports, have with each other, is second-to-none, all uniting behind Leigh as he prepares for his Matchroom showdown, so much so that, yet again, his beloved Nottingham Forest, have wished him luck, posting on their socials..
“You’ve got this @itsLeighWood.
“A big fight this Saturday night for #OneOfOurOwn Leigh Wood, live on Sky Sports from Wembley Arena #NFFC”
It’s a love affair, between the famous Garibaldi, and the home-grown fighter, that goes back some years, as far back as his childhood.
Speaking of his Forest affinity, Wood said: “My grandad took me to Forest matches when I was younger, so I’ve been a fan since I was what, five or six-years old.
“Then, when my mother got married, she married a County fan (Notts not Derby) and, although he kept buying me their strips, they’ve still got their tags on (he laughs).
“But I’m really thankful to the club for their ongoing support.
“It was great to walk out onto the hallowed turf after winning the Commonwealth, and the European titles, there’s no better feeling.
“I’ve never been able to play football myself, other than to have a kick-around, so if I had done, and gone down that avenue, I’d not have been boxing.”
The last time Leigh was at the City Ground one whole year ago, shortly before the current health crisis took control of, well, everything, the Reds won 2-0 against visiting Leeds United, Sammy Ameobi and Lyle Taylor netting – he hopes it won’t be too long before he, and the Forest faithful, are back again.
But what does he think of Forest now, more since a recent upsurge in form under new manager, Chris Hughton.
“I was one of those (many) fans who were sceptical when Hughton brought in (Glenn) Murray, mainly because of his age,” Leigh adds.
“But he’s experienced, and that’s something you can’t buy; as for Hughton himself, he’s doing really well since he came to the club and it’s been brilliant, you really can’t knock it.”
As for his opponent, the unbeaten Mould, there’s been the usual, pre-fight ‘banter’ with Mould responding to Wood’s saying that his opponent wouldn’t hear the final bell, with: “Leigh Wood’s career is over when I beat him” – fighting talk indeed.
So, with a matter of days to go, what is the featherweight fighters’ thoughts going into Saturday’s contest, he added: “Look, what’s been said has been, he’s taken out of context.
“I respect Reece, he’s a good fighter, but it’ll be a harder fight for him if he’s not ready for it, because I know I am.
Then there’s the small matter of ‘that’ ring-walk, something which fighters pride themselves on. Wood WILL be entering Wembley Arena to ‘Something Inside So Strong.’
Often changing what he enters to himself, Wood is thinking of keeping this one, for a time at least, but it also depends on where he’s fighting.
“I always looked up to Nicky, he was a good kid and a good fighter, so this, on Saturday, will be a good way to honour him and his memory.”
And afterwards, well he knows what that will be – he’s got a list of everything he wants to do next including: “Spending quality time with the family, pizza, and desserts,” he laughs.
“Seriously, that’s what’s on my list – boxing-wise however, I told Notts TV recently the three things I still want to accomplish in the fight game.
“Win the British title, headline at the City Ground, and to win a world title, I’m hoping the last two will go hand-in-hand, and in front of the fans.
“The first one, that’ll be on Saturday night and I know that, with my winning, it’ll open a few doors for me and I can’t wait as I know there’s some good nights still to come against some good fighters.”
Leigh Wood opposes Reece Mould for the vacant British featherweight title this Saturday, 13 February, at Wembley Arena, live on Sky Sports.
Promoted by Eddie Hearn and Matchroom boxing, the show will see Josh Warrington take on Mauricio Lara and Zelfa Barrett oppose Kiko Martinez (for the IBF Inter-continental super featherweight title).
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @itsLeighWood title winner as Wood shows off his belts at his beloved City Ground.