“I don’t believe in monsters, do you?”
That’s the rallying call from Gedling-born, Nottingham British featherweight champion, ‘Leighthal’ Leigh Wood after it was announced that he would be given a WORLD TITLE SHOT at the Matchroom Fight Camp, in Brentwood, Essex, at the end of THIS month (July 31).
Now that the fight has been officially announced, and talking exclusively to the Nottingham Sport, Wood, 24-2(14), who has been locked away in a fight camp for over three weeks already, will oppose China’s Can Xu, 18-2(3), on July 31, for the WBA World featherweight strap.
The British champion, who last fought in February, stopping Reece Mould in nine, is more than ready to step onto the stage his followers have been clamouring for some time for, against a fighter who, although hasn’t fought in some twenty months, has a number of accolades to his name.
“He’s had a long time out, and this is a long way to come, so there’s already a few advantages for me with an opportunity that is there to be taken,” claimed Leigh.
“It took me about three seconds to say yes, and these chances don’t come about often.
“I already knew of him anyway, and he throws a lot of punches, but who sprints a marathon.”
In a division packed full of big names, fighters which include Brits like Jazza Dickens, Isaac Dogboe and Josh Warrington, plus world class talent of Gary Russell Jnr, Leo Santa Cruz, and Mauricio Lara, there’s plenty there for ‘Leighthal’ to get stuck into.
He’s not afraid to do that either, with Russell Jnr, 31-1(18) the number one ranked in the division and WBC World champion, one he’s held since early 2015, an opponent to perhaps be avoided, not that the challenge would be shirked either.
“There’s a lot of really good fighters at this weight,” explained Leigh.
“Jazza (Dickens) and Kid Galahad, they fight the week after me (for the IBF World title) but, for me, Russell Jnr is probably the most avoidable in there.
“I’m ready to mix it with any of them though and, winning the British, it did what we hoped it would, opened a door.
“Yes, I’d liked to have win that (British) outright, but these chances are hard to come by so will see what happens.”
Nicknamed ‘Monster,’ China’s Can Xu arrives having not lost since 2014, his two losses coming in his first five outings.
Since then he’s been on a fifteen fight winning streak, one which has also seen eleven championship contests – Xu has contested, and won, that of the WBA Oceania super lightweight, WBA Oceania super featherweight, WBA International super featherweight, WBA International featherweight, and, in January 2019, claimed the WBA World featherweight strap.
Since that victory, a UD12 over Jesus M Rojas in Houston, Texas, Xu, has had two successful defences, against fellow countryman, Shun Kubo, and Manny Robles III, both in 2019; he’s not fought since (primarily that can be attributed to Covid-19).
Wood meanwhile, has had two outings in that timeframe, a loss to Dickens over ten rounds, and a ninth round stoppage success against Doncaster’s Reece Mould last time out.
Now though, and although his beloved Nottingham Forest play on the same day, hosting Sean Dyche’s Burnley in their final, pre-season outing before the new season begins – Dyche, and his coaching team of Ian Woan and Tony Loughlan, are former Reds (late eighties, and throughout the nineties), adding extra spice there.
Wood however, will already be in the Matchroom fight bubble, heading to Essex earlier in the week, but he’ll be keeping an eye on proceedings back home, no matter how much that focus is on the fight.
“I can’t wait to get back to the City Ground, and to hear that roar again,” beamed Leigh.
“But this fight, on the 31st, that’s the sole focus, and has been for a few weeks now.
“100% of everything has gone into this, I’ve not even seen the kids – but, I’m very confident that everything will click into place and I will do all that I can to ensure that it does.
“It’ll be one of those nights that I’m not going to forget in a hurry.”
In a recent interview with China Daily, Xu Can said: “Whatever opponents I have to fight and wherever I need to be, my goal is always the same-that is to bring the belt back to China.
“Now that the Briton wouldn’t dare to leave his home, I will come knocking on his door.”
Adding to his world title shot announcement against Xu Can, ‘Leighthal’ Leigh has also signed an advisory fight deal with that of MTK Global, something their Promoter, Lee Eaton, is understandably, excited about.
He added, prior to the big fight announcement: “We are proud to welcome Leigh Wood to the team on an advisory deal.
“It has been a privilege to work with him ever since the Golden Contract tournament, and now we can take the relationship to the next level.
“We’re pleased to be working alongside Dave Coldwell to help guide Leigh’s career, and with a huge fight set to be announced soon for him, the future looks extremely bright.”
Whilst Leigh adds (more via MTK Global HERE): “I’m very pleased to have this advisory deal with MTK Global.
“They represent the best fighters in the world and it’s great for my name to be amongst them.
“I’ve enjoyed the experience with MTK Global ever since the Golden Contract tournament.
“They looked after me extremely well, and I’m also thankful to Lee Eaton for playing his part in getting me the British title shot, so I’m looking forward to working with them on a longer basis.
Leigh Wood challenges Can Xu for the WBA Wold featherweight title on Eddie Hearn’s first Matchroom Boxing show LIVE on DAZN, 31 July, in Brentwood, Essex – the fight card also sees the undefeated, Conor Benn, face Adrian Granados for the WBA Continental welterweight title, and Tommy McCarthy collide with Chris Billam-Smith for the EBU European, Commonwealth, and vacant British cruiserweight straps, Anthony Fowler taking on Roberto Garcia for the WBA International super welterweight, whilst Shannon Courtenay challenges for the WBA World Female bantamweight title.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @MTKGlobal Leigh Wood will face Xu Can on 31st July.