Leigh Wood will be back in familiar surroundings when putting his WBA featherweight title on the line against Michael Conlan on March 2022. For the first time in almost three years, a Nottingham native will be fighting in his own backyard.
It promises to be an emotional homecoming for a man who disposed of Ryan Doyle the last time he took centre stage at the Motorpoint Arena. A Commonwealth crown was competed for in May 2019, but he is heading home as a world champion.
The latest boxing odds from Betfair suggest that Wood will have his work cut out against a dangerous opponent, with a home favourite priced at 11/8 to see his hand raised while Irish raider Conlan is available at 8/15. Standing as an underdog is nothing new for Wood and those seeking out boxing tips would be foolish to write him off.
A mightily impressive victory over Chinese fighter Xu Chan in July 2021 showcased what Leigh-thal is all about, with a serious marker put down in a bid to prove that he is deserving of a standing among the great and good of British boxing.
Nobody needs to remind Wood that reaching the summit of a sporting mountain is only half the job, with remaining on the loftiest of perches often considerably more difficult. Once you are there to be shot at, there is only one direction in which to head.
A confident character needs no added incentive, though, as he seeks to move a step closer to fulfilling his ultimate dream.
Banks of the Trent
Conquering the world will have been a lifelong ambition for Wood, and he has now delivered on undoubted promise – emulating the efforts of fellow Nottingham-born fighter Carl Froch in the process. He is, however, determined to go one step further.
Froch figured on many big bills over the course of his distinguished career, but he never got the chance to grace a stage that he coveted most.
Wood shares the same dream, with an avid Nottingham Forest supporter desperate to put himself in contention for an ultimate East Midlands showdown at the City Ground – the famous home of his chosen football club.
Said goal is now within tantalising reach – one straight-armed jab from becoming reality instead of fantasy – but there are obvious hurdles to clear first. Wood has said: “I’m one fight away from a City Ground fight which is my dream and I’m not letting it slip.”
Conlan stands between him and a potential outing on the banks of the River Trent. In order to put a ball very much in Forest’s court, an unbeaten record is going to have to be brought to a close.
Wood will believe he is capable of delivering, as will the vast majority of a vociferous home support preparing to visit Nottingham’s Lace Market en masse for what they hope will be a night of serious celebration.
The final step can be the hardest, though, and Wood cannot afford to get carried away. Goals are essential to any sportsperson, as they help to narrow focus, but – as Froch knows only too well - they are also prone to delivering ifs, buts and maybes.