Boxing

Michael Conlan determined to chop down Leigh Wood in WBA featherweight showdown

Michael Conlan's impressive win against TJ Doheny at Feile paved the way for his WBA featherweight title shot against champion Leigh Wood. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker.
Andy Watters

MICHAEL Conlan says he'll grab his world title chance “with both hands” as he goes back into training to face WBA featherweight champion Leigh Wood in December.

Interim featherweight champion Conlan has left the super-bantamweight division behind him (for now at least) after his career-best win against former world champion TJ Doheny at Falls Park last month.

His focus is on Nottingham's Wood, the man who ripped the WBA belt off China's Can Xu with a superb TKO win in July, and Belfast, Nottingham, London and New York are all possible venues for the rumble.

There had been talk of an option to fight the winner of the Stephen Fulton versus Brendon Figueroa super-bantamweight unification battle, now postponed after Figueroa tested positive for Covid-19, but Conlan's future, at least in the short term, is at featherweight.

“The WBA ordering Wood to face me so that made the decision for me,” said Conlan.

“The fight is ordered so that's the next route, it's the route that is going to bring me quickest to a world title but I'd still be prepared to go to 122lbs (super-bantam) if the opportunity arises.”

The winner of Conlan versus Wood is expected to go on to face Mexico's WBA ‘super' champion Leo Santa Cruz, a two-time Carl Frampton adversary of course who lost to ‘The Jackal' in New York but won his title back in the Las Vegas rematch. At the minute, Conlan's focus is solely on Wood.

“Leigh showed that he's the biggest puncher in the division in his last performance,” said Conlan.

“Can Xu destroyed my old gym mate Manny Robles junior and I know how good Manny is. So it's definitely a fight that you think: ‘Yes, it's a great fight and I would definitely take it' but I am going in there with a dangerous fighter who can punch. So I'll have to have my wits about me and I'll have to have everything on point. You just can't make any mistakes in that type of fight.”

Wood boxed brilliantly against Xu. He negated his opponent's strengths by keeping the Chinese at long range and hammering him with well-timed, powerful shots off both hands.

“I'd be confident of beating any of the champions but I don't think Leigh has got the credit he deserves for that win,” said Conlan.

“I would give him massive credit because he went in there against a guy with massive output who's a very harder fighter to take on.

“Xu had set the record for the most punches in a fight in the featherweight division and Leigh nullified him with his power and his shot selection. So he's a guy I have to be very wary of and careful with but after my last couple of performances I believe that I'm ready and I'm very confident of beating some like Leigh.

“Now is my time, this is my chance and I have to grab it with both hands.”

Conlan has fought just one English opponent since he turned pro in 2017. That was Jason Cunningham on the undercard of Frampton versus Josh Warrington at the Manchester Arena back in 2018. There could be echoes of Frampton's rivalries with Warrington and, earlier, Scott Quigg, as he prepares for the Ireland-England showdown but Conlan insists: “It doesn't really matter who I fight or where they're from”.

“I haven't fought too many English guys but where it is, or who it is doesn't really matter,” he added.

“We are hoping it'll be December. Final negotiations are ongoing now, they had 30 days after the fight was ordered which gives them until the 28th of September to make the fight.”

Conlan is still recovering from a hamstring injury he picked up in the fourth round against Doheny. He has no idea how it occurred but remembers feeling pain as he came out for the fifth round against the Portlaoise fighter.

“I knew I had hurt it but I thought it was just a cramp,” he explained.

“But the next day before I went on holiday I got it scanned and I was told it was a grade two hamstring tear right up the abductor – I was lucky it was the abductor because it's the middle muscle of the hamstring and it was safe enough in there between the other two hamstring muscles.

“I was still able to move okay but it was crazy that I had a grade two injury in the fight and didn't really notice it! It has affected me trying to get to my running – I haven't been able to run with it – but I'm hoping to get back in the next week or so.

“It's taking time. I never had an injury in my life until October last year and since then I've had a few but these things happen as you get older and you have to take more care of your body.”

JONO Carroll moved a step closer to another shot at a world title as he claimed a majority decision win over Andy Vences in a final eliminator for the WBA super-featherweight title on Saturday.

The Triller Fight Club event was taking place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida, and was broadcast live on Fite TV.

Carroll (20-2-1) was aggressive on the front foot from the first bell and dictated large portions of the fight against Vences (23-3-1). It went the 10-round distance, with the three judges at ringside scoring the fight 97-93, 97-93, 95-95 to earn Carroll the impressive victory.

ANTHONY Joshua says he "needs" to fight Tyson Fury before he hangs up his gloves as he prepares for his latest title defence against Oleksandr Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 25.

The WBO, WBA (Super) and IBF champion hopes he can fight Fury next.

"Do I need Tyson Fury on my record? I need it," said Joshua.

"Fight good fighters and they bring out the best of you.

"Training camp is hard. To get better is very difficult in boxing. To fight Tyson Fury is a big challenge.

"I'm going to put that pressure on myself to actually get better. But it's what we all need, I need it. Come on, let's see how good I am.

"Let's see how far I can take myself during this period. It'll be a good challenge mentally. Not about him, but because I actually want to do well.

"When I wake up in the morning early and I'm tired, my body's battered, I still go out and do what I do. It's great rewards and only someone like Fury can give that to me."

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Boxing