Leigh Wood put on the performance of his career to change his life and etch his name into the history books on Saturday night at Fight Camp.
Wood was the betting underdog heading into a late-notice showdown with Xu Can, but made a mockery of those odds, ripping away the WBA ‘regular’ featherweight world title with an empathic final round stoppage victory to send the partisan crowd at Matchroom HQ into raptures.
Can, is regarded for having one of the highest punch volumes in the sport, however ‘Leighthal’ nullified his workrate throughout, with consistent body work and accurate head blows, which appeared to shock the Chinese champion.
The ‘Monster’ did have success of his own, however the Brit took his best shots and seemed to control the action, leading with his jab which kept the 27-year-old at range.
Wood put the result beyond doubt in the twelfth round, dropping his foe with a hard right hand and unleashing further punishing, unanswered shots, before referee Marcus McDonnell intervened.
The magnitude of his achievement was visibly apparent for the 33-year-old who dropped to his feet and embraced trainer Ben Davison who masterminded the victory in just their second fight together, beating the third rated contender by the Ring Magazine.
Almost a decade after making his debut, Wood had his defining night and joined elite company by becoming just the second man from Nottingham to secure a world title, putting his name alongside Carl Froch.
🥊 Nottingham’s 𝙩𝙬𝙤 world champions… 👑
— Pro Boxing Fans (@ProBoxingFans) August 2, 2021
There are plenty of options now for the world champion in a thriving 126 pound division, so who could he face next?
Xu Can could seek redemption immediately.
After taking a voluntary defence, Can has a rematch clause which he can invoke straight away and may feel that with more preparation time he could turn the tables.
The ‘Monster’ had been inactive since his last defence, a unanimous decision win over Manny Robles III in November 2019 and may believe a combination of ring rust and possible complacency could have played a part.
However, the Gedling man would have the momentum heading into a potential rematch and with his power seemingly surprising the ex-champion, it’s questionable whether he would be able to make the necessary changes to regain his belt.
Promoter Eddie Hearn was uncertain post-fight whether he would want the chance at revenge, but with future clashes with the likes of Josh Warrington, who he had been in talks with prior to the Leeds man vacating his IBF title, resting on having a world title to his name, Can could be lured into running it back with Wood.
Kid Galahad – Jazza Dickens winner
Wood will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on Saturday’s meeting between Kid Galahad and Jazza Dickens.
Galahad and Dickens contest the vacant IBF crown relinquished by Warrington in the second week of Matchroom’s Fight Camp in a rematch of their 2013 clash.
Wood has history with the pair having been a former stablemate of Galahad during his spell at the Ingle Gym and a former opponent of Dickens, who beat him by majority decision in the semi-final of the MTK Golden Contract in February 2020.
With a reformed, more aggressive style under Davison’s guidance, Wood is particularly keen on gaining revenge against the Liverpool man, should he come through successfully.
“Redemption with Dickens would be great for myself,” Wood said to Matchroom Boxing.
“I have full confidence in [trainer] Ben [Davison] getting my tactics right for that fight.
“I had a bad night that fight. First southpaw I boxed as a pro. I’d like to put that right naturally.”
Wood named WBO featherweight world champion, Emanuel Navarrete as a potential opponent before the fight and remains keen to face him.
Navarrete, a former long-reigning champion at Super Bantamweight, made a sole defence of his crown at 126lbs stopping Christopher Diaz in April after winning the belt with a points win over Ruben Villa.
The 26-year-old has a typically aggressive Mexican style with 28 of his 33 wins coming inside the distance, although it’s a challenge the 33-year-old insists he would relish.
“I said I wanted the Navarrete fight,” Wood said.
“He’s explosive like me, that’ll be absolute fireworks.”
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Against an experienced champion like Navarrete, Wood would again likely head in as the underdog, but riding on a crest of a wave following his historic win on Saturday night, who would doubt him?
Let us know who you would like to see Leigh Wood face next.