What Next For Wood?

If the writers of Rocky wanted to make a modern day 2022 version of their famously renowned film, few scenarios could fit better than the one we saw on Saturday night in Nottingham. An unbeaten challenger taking on a novice champion who’s well down on the scorecards after being stunningly knocked down by his opponent in the first round, before a brutal onslaught in the final few seconds of the fight see’s the champ rescue victory from brink of defeat, with a knockout blow that sends his nemesis not only to the canvas, but through the ropes, out of the ring and onto the seats below at ringside.

The only question being for Rocky fans, you may consider it too far-fetched to be produced, more WWE than WBA? But this really happened on Saturday night in our very own city as boxing fans that were there in attendance at the electric atmospheric Motorpoint Arena and even watching at home or through their apps via DAZN, will all agree to describe this stunning event as one of the best ever featherweight fights in the history of boxing.

Wood v Conlon was a tear up of the highest proportion, selling out the National Ice Arena for his first WBA defence, local fans expected a ‘Leighthal’ win, but many knew the danger of the unbeaten Irishman and Olympic medallist Mickey Conlon, who came with nothing to lose, and struck Wood with a beauty to send him down late in round one.

Saved by the bell, Leigh hung on in there as Conlon got to work in the next few rounds, looking a class act full of confidence, but the guts, heart and determination of the champ in evidence, not a chance he would give in on home turf.

Wood slowly edged his way back in the fight, the less experienced Conlon in his first title match, tiring as both boxers gave it all… The flurry of shots landing ridiculous amounts as both happy to go toe to toe and unguarded.

It seemed too little too late for Wood for every punch or combination he landed, Conlon would land one back, but in round eleven, seconds before the bell, Wood caught his opponent who slipped back to the floor. A 10-8 to give the champ half a glimmer, whilst Conlon’s corner complained it was a slip, the fast connection of Wood landing left handed certainly caused the slip, this upset Conlon’s rhythm, and in twelve it was one way traffic.

As Conlon clung on to his slender points lead, Wood knew only a knockout would do, and coming forward at alarming pace with as much energy as a boxer in rounds two or three, Wood landed several shots before the knockout blow, Conlon was already out cold before the last one landed, sending the Irishman through the ropes and out of the ring.

Wood and supporters celebrated with a roar of emotion but soon hushed as the champ asked for calm as medics attended Conlon who eventually, after a hospital visit was cleared all well and good, the morning after both boxers met and shared respect, the way Wood has conducted himself, before, during and after the fight, has already won him over a new audience, including Irish fans who praised his actions after victory.

Wood’s promoter Eddie Hearn has since came out and stated that ‘the City Ground’ will be the boxers next stop, with the winner of Kiko Martinez against Josh Warrington high on the agenda, should Warrington win (a week on Saturday), a battle of Britain could soon commence, Warrington a Leeds fan would certainly prefer Elland Road to Trentside, but the former WBC champion has already been beaten by Spaniard Martinez who would happily come to Nottingham with his IBF and Wood’s WBA belts on the line.

Another possibility is Mexico’s Emmanuel Navarrete who holds the WBO belt, the cream of the crop holding the WBA super belt however is another Mexican in Leo Santa Cruz, whilst that fight is least likely, it could be on the cards should Wood go on to gain a second belt by beating either Warrington/Martinez or Navarrete.

Whatever’s next, one or two things are for sure, Wood will be fighting for another title fight (hopefully at his beloved City Ground), and he will be paid handsomely for his efforts… Two huge things that the Gedling boxer has had to work very hard for in his career, now 33-years young, his long-winded journey is finally starting to come to fruition.

*Main image @itsLeighWood the champion celebrates retaining his WBA belt.

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