Wow, what a fight !
How did Leigh Wood come back from that devastating first round knockdown to defeat Michael Conlan by stunning knockout in the final round of their WBA world featherweight title fight Saturday ? Through sheer guts and determination, that is the answer.
Wood, the champion from Nottingham, England was making the first defence of his title ripped from China’s Can Xu last year. Fighting in his hometown before a rabid local crowd, buoyed by a big Irish attendance backing the challenger, the fight and Wood’s victory was nothing short of sensational.
Irishman, Conlan, a double Olympian and undefeated, was the favourite going in. Compiling an undefeated 16-0 record. It was expected this would be his coming out fight to finally capture his first ‘world’ title, since turning pro amidst much fanfare in Madison Square Garden back in 2017. Wood had other ideas.
For much of Saturday’s contest Conlan dominated with his superior boxing skills; switch hitting and ending exchanges with a long looping left that kept detonating on the champion’s head. Wood simply couldn’t avoid it.
Right on the bell to end the first round a massive left dropped Wood and his legs stiffened. Fight over ? Not on your nelly. The champion somehow dragged himself up, and on shaky legs taking the nine count, was allowed to return to his corner. If the fight had been stopped there and then, disappointment would’ve followed but few argued.
For much of the opening rounds Wood just couldn’t get in the fight. Conlan showing a wonderful array of his superior skills gained from his highly successful amateur career. Then as the rounds clicked over the champion got more into the contest with his mental toughness and higher workrate, but not really making a dent in the Ulsterman.
The eleventh round swung the fight when Wood landed a short left hook to end an exchange towards the round’s end and a combination of the impact and slip saw Conlan hit the canvas. All of sudden we had a question mark over the challenger. Conlan, protesting to the referee that it was indeed a slip, the count was however administered, and he was not so far ahead now. The points were getting closer with each man scoring a knockdown.
The twelfth was a slugfest which you could’ve given to either fighter by mid round, then, with Conlan seemingly going to victory BOOM ! The champion landed and the Irishman disappeared out the ring between the second and third rope. By now the crowd noise was deafening and amidst the panic all ringside concern was for the welfare of the challenger.
Medical supervision was immediate and after a tense and worrying fifteen minutes the challenger was taken safely from ringside. Michael Conlan was safe, had played his part in an epic fight and literally left the ring ‘on his shield’.
Leigh Wood was denied his opportunity to truly celebrate due to concern over his opponent but paid the Irishman ultimate respect in the post fight interview on DAZN. He described his toughness saying he’d hit him with everything. In the early hours Conlan tweeted his improving condition, much to the relief of all who witnessed this amazing contest.
It truly was one for the ages and will be a strong contender for 2022 fight of the year.