Ahead of his huge defence of his WBA World title against Lara on Saturday night, we take a look at the career of Leigh Wood so far which has seen him upset the odds time and time again and rise through the Featherweight division.
Live on DAZN, Leigh Wood will take to the ring this weekend backed by his home faithful at The Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, in what many consider the toughest test of his career to date! Many were shocked at Wood taking this fight as a voluntary defence as Lara (25-2, 18 KOs) is considered the fighter to avoid in the 126 lb division.
Wood (26-2, 16KOs) made his professional debut in 2011 and won his first 11 fights. He quickly gained a reputation as a powerful puncher and a rising star in the sport. In 2014 however, he suffered his first defeat to Gavin McDonnell where he was stopped in the 6th round in a fight for the vacant British Super-Bantamweight title.
Following this defeat he then went on to win his next 12 fights and pick up The WBO European strap. In February 2020 his first defence of this title came in another stern test in the form of Jazza Dickens. In what many considered one of the fights of the year, Wood lost by a narrow decision with judges scoring it 96-94, 95-94 and 95-95 in favour of Dickens.
After this set back Leigh Wood took a year out before stopping Reece Mould at Wembley Arena to win the British Featherweight Title. This victory would prove a pivotal moment in his career as he managed to secure a shot at WBA (Regular) Featherweight World Champion Xu Can at Fight Club in Matchroom’s headquarters. In a sensational performance, “Lethal” Leigh Wood stopped Xu Can in the 12th round to defy the odds and become World Champion. Wood knocked Can down in the last round and the champion could not recover as Wood backed him up against the ropes and the referee waved it off with only 15 seconds of the fight remaining!
Many considered Wood to be the underdog once more in his first defence as he took on the Unbeaten, and highly rated Irishman Michael Conlan. Voted by many media outlets as fight of the year, the bout truly lived up to its hype. Conlan scored a knockdown in the last few seconds of the first round and many thought it wasn’t going to last much longer. Conlan continued to dominate until a spirited Leigh Wood turned the tables in the latter rounds and scored a knockdown himself in the 11th. With Conlan ahead on the scorecards, Wood needed a knockout in the 12th. It came midway through the last round with the knockout of the year taking Conlan clean out causing Conlan to fall through the ropes!
Saturday night Wood will look to defy the odds once again. He has received the plaudits for taking this fight as a voluntary defence against bookies favourite Mauricio Lara. If Wood can off another fantastic win against the Mexican dangerman, he will surely set up a bout against former World Champion Josh Warrington in a summer showdown at The City Ground, home to his beloved Nottingham Forest.
By Lee Browne