When Michael Conlan and Leigh Wood enter the ring on Saturday it will be coming off career-best performances, Conlan soundly defeated TJ Doheny and Wood scored a surprise stoppage over Can Xu.
Can Conlan take another step towards fulfilling his top-billing entering the pro ranks? Will Wood continue to prove the experts wrong? The winner has plenty of options like a possible meeting against Leo Santa Cruz, Emanuel Navarrete, or whoever wins between Kiko Martinez and Josh Warrington. This card will be streamed live on DAZN because it was Eddie Hearn who won the purse bid over Bob Arum.
From the beginning of Michael Conlan’s pro career, the pressure was on him to reach great heights based on his deep amateur pedigree.
Having signed to Top Rank alongside 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson the side-by-side comparisons started right out of the gate. In his first 4 bouts as a pro, Conlan outshined Stevenson winning by technical knockout in each one while Stevenson mostly went the distance.
Shakur was in the process of getting the amateur way of fighting out of his system so early it appeared to some that Conlan’s style fit the paid ranks better. Beyond the start of their careers clearly, Shakur has advanced faster than Conlan and now has his biggest test to date versus Oscar Valdez on April 30th.
Flashback two outings ago it was Conlan who struggled to get by Ionut Baluta. However last August Michael came through by beating a game fighter in TJ Doheny flashing skills that could serve him well on Saturday.
Conlan used a counter check-right handover and over along with a sharp jab and great upper body defense. Conlan was able to position himself directly in front of danger without getting hit repeatedly.
The Belfast, Northern Ireland native can box orthodox or southpaw regardless Conlan also loves to throw right hooks to the body and head.
Most of us boxing fans didn’t necessarily see Leigh Wood beating Can Xu but that’s exactly what he did last July. Wood turned pro all the way back in 2011 and in his 12th bout as a professional he was TKO’d by a very solid boxer in Gavin McDonnell.
13 fights later facing non-descript opponents mostly Wood took on James Dickens losing via majority-decision. After securing a win over Reece Mould Leigh used his jab nicely to set up straight or looping right hands also attacking Can Xu’s body with both hands. This time Wood wouldn’t leave it in the judge’s hands winning by stoppage in the 12th round.
Look for Conlan to use his slight reach and skill advantage to put the first couple of rounds in the bank. Leigh must be patient and not get frustrated at what surely will be him missing power punches in the early goings.
Conlan showed he can rely on his defense even when trapped on the ropes able to duck and move to make for a difficult target to hit.
At the same time that previously mention check hook should come in handy throughout this fight but Conlan doesn’t want to get trapped on the ropes for too long of stretches. Wood will win rounds and have success in spots but not for long periods of time.
This boxing podcaster did notice that Wood tends to push with his punches, especially his right hand, and if he throws too many combinations to the body it will leave him wide open for Conlan counters.
Not calling for a blowout but I do see a competitive yet clear victory for Conlan who has more paths to victory and better defense.
Quick combos up and downstairs along with a snappy jab will score enough points for Conlan who will likely turn up his volume mixed with meaningful punches down the stretch. If Conlan gets a knockdown or win via knockout it will come one of two ways: a right to the body or counter check-hook upstairs in an exchange.
My Official Prediction is Michael Conlan by Unanimous Decision.
Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & TheGruelingTruth.Com Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio