Boxing

Michael Conlan wants a rematch as Leigh Wood defends title in Nottingham classic

Leigh Wood recovered from being sent crashing to the canvas in round one. Picture: Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing

MICHAEL Conlan says he wants a rematch with Leigh Wood after a barnstorming, see-saw epic ended in the first defeat of his career at Nottingham Arena.

Conlan had no complaints and offered no excuses but luck was not on his side on Saturday night. He floored the defending WBA champion late in the first round but Wood was saved by the bell. Then, crucially in the 11th, a Conlan slip was ruled as a knockdown by referee Steve Gray and that gave Wood the momentum he needed for an all-out assault in the final round.

As Conlan tired, Wood forced him to stand and fight and the Nottingham native’s superior punch power had the final say. Conlan was pinned against the ropes and knocked unconscious by a right hand. He dropped lifelessly to the canvas, toppled over the middle rope and fell head-first out of the ring.

It was a shocking conclusion but resilient, determined Wood deserves immense credit for his victory. He came through a torrid opening quarter to force his way back into the fight. Conlan kicked on again and was well ahead on the scorecards going into the final quarter and he could argue that it was his sustained assault that forced the debated knockdown in the 11th. Conlan was brutally knocked out in the final round but spent Saturday night in his hotel after a treatment and scans at the hospital.

“I was alright,” he said.

“Everybody was panicking but I was alright.”

Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn described the featherweight battle as “one of the greatest fights and the greatest comebacks we’ve ever seen” while Carl Frampton described the fight as the best he’d ever seen and there’s no doubt that there would be massive interest in Wood-Conlan 2.

Wood hopes to go on to face WBA ‘super’ champion Leo Santa Cruz next at the home of Nottingham Forest – the City Ground – but Conlan says he deserves another shot.

“I want a rematch,” he said.

“I want to go again and I’ll go to the City Ground if I have to, I don’t mind.

“I’ll go back to Nottingham. I was beat, it’s hard to take, very hard to take - these things happen and I’m devastated, I’m proper devastated. I want a rematch and I’ll go anywhere in the world for a rematch – if it’s the City Ground I’ll go there and I’m sure I’ll win.”

Conlan began the fight brilliantly and was well ahead by the halfway point. But Wood was a menacing presence throughout and when the Belfast man began to tire, the home favourite was able to pin him down and go to war. In the end, his greater firepower was the deciding factor and Conlan admits he did got dragged into a battle when it looked like he had won the war.

“I probably wouldn’t get drawn into a fight as much in a rematch,” he said.

“I was wary about my energy. I threw a lot of punches and I didn’t expect to flatten him in the first round so I hadn’t prepared for that.”

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Boxing