Boxing

Michael Conlan confident of victory over Leigh Wood in Nottingham bear-pit

Leigh Wood and Michael Conlan will fight for the WBA Featherweight title in Nottingham on March 12. Picture Mal McCann.
Andy Watters

EDDIE Hearn predicts a bear-pit atmosphere at a packed Nottingham Arena when Michael Conlan challenges champion Leigh Wood for the WBA featherweight title on March 12.

Conlan says Wood goes into the fight as favourite but predicts he'll dethrone the local man in his own backyard and bring the coveted belt home to Belfast in time for the St Patrick's Day parade.

“In my head he's favourite,” said Conlan at yesterday's raucous Europa Hotel press conference.

“He's in his home town, he's world champion and I have to go over and do a serious job and I believe I will. The best Michael Conlan beats any of them so that's what I've got to be, I have to be the best me.

“I thought the fight was going to be in New York but day one my da (John Conlan) wanted it in Nottingham. He likes me to do things the hard way, he still has a say in my career and he's the one that wanted me to go to Nottingham.

“He knows that being challenged brings the best out of me and he knows that going to somebody's backyard and winning their world title means much, much more and creates much more of a legacy for everything afterwards.”

The victor on March 12 will move on to a unification clash with the winner of Josh Warrington versus Kiko Martinez. Ben Davidson rates Wood as the biggest hitter in the featherweight division but master-boxer Conlan says his extra power won't allow him to hang on to his belt.

“Anything I do beats him, everything I do beats him,” said Conlan.

“I could beat him as a southpaw or as an orthodox. I could beat him going forward, I could beat him going back. I just need to be wary of what he has, be smart in what I'm doing and not get careless like sometimes I have been before when I've got dragged into things.

“This time I will be very, very smart and I will go in there and do a demolition job on him: I'll either box the head off him and win on points, or I'll box his head in and stop him late.”

Conlan began yesterday's press conference by sarcastically presenting Wood with a signed glove and there were jibes from either side in front of a large crowd at the Europa. The Englishman, who has come through hard times living off £50 to reach this level, retained his composure and says his confidence rock-solid.

“It's the biggest bill that I've headlined,” he said.

“I've fought in arenas with the same capacity but it's not the same if they (the fans) are not there for you. So there will be added pressure but I'll rise to the occasion.”

Wood claimed that the March 12 showdown is the first time that Conlan has ever been in a “50-50 fight” but he tried not to give the Belfast man an insult to feed off.

“I wouldn't say his opponents have been cherry-picked but I do think he has been manoeuvred and managed very, very well,” he said.

“Even looking at his last fight (TJ Doheny) which was one of his best wins. It was made at super-bantam and it got dropped on TJ last minute that it was featherweight... I don't want to discredit him, we know he's a good fighter but has he been in a fight this hard before? Absolutely not.

“He's got to rise to the occasion like I have. I've come through fights I wasn't expected to win, I've been clipped before and I've been in fights where my opponent has the same desire to win as me. He has everything to do on the night.”

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Boxing