Nottingham’s favourite son, ‘Leighthal’ Leigh Wood, 25-2 (15), takes to the ring in the first defence of his WBA World featherweight title on March 12, and he’s calling on the people of his home city to pack the Arena, and cheer him onto success.
Opposing Belfast’s undefeated star, Michael Conlan, 16-0 (8), at the Nottingham Motorpoint Arena, it’ll be the third time the Gedling boxer has appeared there, Wood knows he’s got home advantage, and, although a war of words is simmering away, is confident of a successful defence.
“He’s trying to antagonise me, get under my skin, but I’ve seen and heard it all before,” began Leigh.
“I think, really, he’s just trying to convince himself that he can win, but I’m going in there and will do my job.”
“I’ve been wanting this for a long time (a world title fight in Nottingham), and I need all of Nottingham to get behind me, to jump on the tickets, and not let the Irish take over. I know we can do this as my following is growing and that’s amazing – they aren’t coming to take over, I can tell you that.”
Having fought in the US, Australia, England, and his Irish homeland, could Nottingham be his undoing – ‘Leighthal’ understandably, hopes this is the case, and would love for his fans to sing him home, loud and proud, to turn out in force, on both fight night, and the upcoming Press Tour (Albert Hall, North Circus Street, Wednesday 19 January, 1pm).
Six of Conlan’s last seven outings have all been title fights, with his two title outings in 2021 being that of Ionut Baluta (WBO Intercontinental super bantamweight, W MD12), and TJ Doheny ( WBA interim World featherweight, W UD12).
That alone shows that the Belfast fighter has the big fight experience, whilst Wood has longevity, and twenty-seven contests under his belt – both combatants have a decent stoppage ratio as well.
Leigh though, whilst continuing to call for the City of Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire as a whole, to get behind him, says what this all means to him, adding: “Fighting for, and winning the world title, that’s always been my dream, the goal, the pinnacle for me.
“I’ve had everything thrown at me, and just kept going; not sulked when I was beaten, or been injured, I’ve even been broke for ten years so this, it’s something I deserve.
“I’ve even fought on shows for nothing, in order to get myself where I am today.”
“Come March 12 though, he (Conlan) is in for a fight, a proper fight, and I’m going in there and doing it for all those fighters who’ve done things the hard way, like myself.”
With the Reds, Leigh’s hometown, and boyhood club, Nottingham Forest, scheduled for a home game on the same day – Steve Cooper’s promotion chasers are scheduled to host Reading in the Sky Bet EFL Championship that afternoon, fans can look forward to a double-bill of sporting action.
Meanwhile Leigh, under the expert guidance of Ben Davison and his team, will be working away behind the scenes, ready to topple Conlan, between now and mid-March.
“We have a plan, and I’m very confident and know what I have to do,” concluded Leigh.
“As I’ve said though, I just need the Nottingham fans to come out, in force, for what will be a very special night for this city.”
Matchroom, in association with DAZN Boxing, bring a Press Tour (open to the public) to the Albert Hall, North Circus Street, NG1 5AA on Wednesday 19 January, from 1pm, before a similar event in Belfast’s Europa Hotel the following day.
Leigh Wood will defend his WBA World featherweight title, against the undefeated Michael Conlan, on Saturday 12 March, at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena, live on DAZN – tickets, undercard, and further information to be announced.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @dazngroup Leigh Wood beat Xu Can to become world champion.