Boxing

Leigh Wood the hardest hitter in UK says Ben Davison * Gary Cully ready to make statement win

Leigh Wood is the hardest hitter in UK says Ben Davison. Picture: Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing
Andy Watters

BEN Davison rates his fighter Leigh Wood as the hardest hitter in the UK, pound-for-pound.

Davison, who had a spell training Tyson Fury and currently trains Josh Taylor, is in a good position to make the assessment but he says Wood's power alone won't be enough to beat Michael Conlan tomorrow night.

“He's very strong,” said Davison.

“I've worked with a lot of the top fighters in the UK and, pound-for-pound, Leigh Wood is by far the hardest puncher. I don't reckon he is, I know it for sure – he hits harder than middleweights that I've trained.

“But I'm sure Mick has faced other big punchers, he has been in training camps with Oscar Valdez so the power in itself is not going to win the fight for Leigh. Mick is a very versatile, well-skilled fighter so he needs to be smart and world class in how he creates the scenarios to be able to land his shots.”

That's easier said than done against a switch-hitter like Conlan who started out as an orthodox fighter but is now as good, if not marginally better, as a southpaw.

Meanwhile, Wood had shoulder surgery late last year but Davison says it hasn't affected his preparation for the Nottingham Arena rumble.

“We had to be a bit careful at the start of camp but it's really good now,” he said.

“At the start it was a little bit sore but as the camp has gone on and with rehab it hasn't been a problem.”

Wood won his world title during lockdown at Eddie Hearn's purpose-built Brentwood Fight Camp. There were no fans present when he beat China's Can Xu last summer so tomorrow night, headlining a show for the first time in his home city with 10,000 watching, will be a different experience for him.

“I was asked when we landed in Scotland with Josh Taylor whether the crowd in Glasgow was going to be an advantage or a disadvantage,” said Davison.

“I thought that at the beginning of the fight it was going to be a disadvantage because of the character that Josh is. However, with Leigh and the character he is, I think home support and the atmosphere will be an advantage.”

Given how highly he rates Wood's firepower, Davison will hope his man ends Conlan's world title dream early tomorrow night. He says his man is also capable of out-boxing Conlan.

“When Leigh won the world title against Can Xu, they were saying: ‘Wood has to knock him out, he can't win on points',” he explained.

“He stopped him in the 12th round but he was well ahead on points. I don't think it's a case of Conlan can only win on points, he punches harder than people think he does. At the same time, I don't think Leigh can only win on knockout, he's a better boxer than people give him credit for. It's a great fight, a real 50-50 fight and any outcome is possible.”

Meanwhile, in the wake of Davison fighter Josh Taylor's disputed points decision against Jack Catterall in Glasgow, the British Boxing Board of Control yesterday downgraded one of the judges that night for his controversial scorecard.

The undisputed light-welterweight clash saw Scotland's Taylor awarded a split-decision win. Ian John-Lewis scored the bout 114-111 in Taylor's favour (the other judges had it a point either way) and he has now been downgraded from an A* Class to an A Class official.

“I believe it was a fair fight,” insisted Davison.

“This controversy is only in the UK. In America you don't have this controversy – Andre Ward on ESPN scored the fight and had Josh Taylor winning, Ring Magazine had Josh by one point and I've gone back and scored it and had Josh by a point.

“But I understand, there were a few rounds that could have gone either way. It was a tough fight to score and a close fight.”

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TWO years ago, Gary Cully knocked out local favourite Joe Fitzpatrick in a round at the Ulster Hall and, although the Covid pandemic has stalled his progress since, the Naas native intends to make up for lost time tomorrow night against lightweight division ‘gatekeeper' Miquel Vasquez.

The 35-year-old Mexican has traded leather with Josh Taylor in the past and was unlucky to lose decisions against Ohara Davies and, most recently, Lewis Ritson.

Thin and long-limbed, Cully packs explosive power into his gaunt frame and he wants to catch the public eye with a statement win at Nottingham Arena.

“I've been looking for this chance for ages so I'm excited that it's finally here and I've got a great opponent in front of me in Miquel Vasquez who has been there and done it,” he said.

“It's a big test for me and I'm looking forward to putting on an explosive performance. 2022 is the year that I plan on making a real statement in the world rankings and stepping up and winning world titles.

“Miquel Vasquez is the first step in doing so. I've been building on the small hall scene for the last few years and this is my first time on the big stage and I'm looking forward to showing everybody what I can do.”

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Boxing