Leigh Wood Serves Michael Conlan His First Professional Loss
While fighting in his own backyard, Regular WBA featherweight champion “Leigh-thal” Leigh Wood (26-2, 16 KO’s) staged the first successful defense of his title. He pulled this off by defeating two-time Olympian and mandatory challenger Michael “Mick” Conlan (16-1, 8 KO’s) by way of a thrilling twelfth round knockout after a very memorable war. This victory also marks the first professional blemish on Conlan’s record who entered the bout ranked #1 (WBA).
With the victory, Wood is now riding a three-fight win streak since suffering his second pro loss at the hands of James Dickens back on February 21, 2020. In fact, Leigh-thal captured the vacant BBBofC featherweight title over Reece Mould in his first prizefight after Dickens. He would then go on to upset Can Xu to usurp his Regular WBA crown. Wood won both of these contests by way of stoppage.
It will be interesting to see how hard Wood will press to fight one of the four full champions in his division. As for Conlan, now he will have to start the difficult process of rebuilding his standings in the rankings.
At the conclusion of what began as a rather standard feel-out opening round, Conlan laid Wood flat on his back with a hard left hook. The champ miraculously made it to his feet and was saved by the bell. With only sixty seconds to recover, Wood was still not on steady legs and was battered throughout the entirety of the second round. Leigh-thal adding in his own, opted to throw caution into the wind by choosing to fight and not hold. By the final thirty seconds of the period, it looked like Wood was getting his legs back under him. Conlan also suffered a cut on his left eye in the second.
Over the third and fourth rounds, the champion was able to stabilize the bout a great deal but was still having massive trouble with Conlan’s offense. The left hand that dropped him remained an acute terror in his life. The fifth was a grueling, grinding period that saw the men fight shoulder to shoulder and engage in quite a few clinches. Each fighter paid more attention to hard body shots and now Wood also suffered a cut.
During the final minute of the seventh, Wood enjoyed his best sustained success of the match by sitting down on his punches and puncturing Conlan’s body. On the one hand, Conlan appeared to be fading a bit through the eighth as Wood applied near non-stop pressure. On the other hand, it was Mick who landed the hardest one-punch shots in the period. The action slowed notably in the ninth as Conlan changed tactics and became far more mobile. By choosing his spots, rather than engaging in all-out war, he was able to take far less damage.
Wood once again started having great success at the conclusion of the tenth as Conlan began languishing on the ropes. Oddly, when Conlan appeared particularly fatigued and was blatantly holding, referee Steve Gray took the time to break the action and talk to the fighters for a conspicuously long amount of time. Mick would turn things around and was staging a fantastic comeback round. During that eleventh round, he hit Wood with more clean left hooks than the law should allow. However, in the final seconds, Leigh-thal barely landed a left hook but Conlan went down nonetheless. Team Conlan cried foul saying that it was a slip but a punch did land and he was charged with a knockdown nevertheless.
Then in a brutal slugfest of a twelfth round, Leigh Wood literally knocked Conlan head first out the ring in similar fashion as current WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr’s shocking knockout of Bernard Hopkins in 2016 that eventually put the legend into retirement.
While it was an exciting conclusion to the fight, it was also a scary moment as Michael Conlan was never seen on camera again. Congrats are extended to Wood and prayers sent to Michael Conlan.
UPDATE: According to Frank Smith of Matchroom Boxing, Conlan arrived at the nearest hospital in “stable” condition!
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By: Bakari Simpson