In a fight of the year candidate, WBA featherweight champion Leigh Wood (26-2, 16 KOs) was forced to walk through fire to defeat two-time Irish Olympian Michael Conlan (16-1,8 KOs) by a 12th round knockout on Saturday night in their headliner at the Nottingham Arena in Nottingham, England.
The 33-year-old Wood looked hopelessly outclassed through the first nine rounds, getting dropped by Conlan in the first, hurt in rounds 2, 3, 5, 9, and 10.
However, Wood’s constant pressure finally got to the 30-year-old Conlan in the 11th round when he dropped the Irish fighter with a left hand. It looked like a partial slip, though, but given that a punch landed, the referee counted it as a knockdown.
Conlan going down in the 11th was a sign that he was tired, and had the fight knocked out of him due to the furious pace that the bigger, stronger steel-chinned Wood had set.
At the start of the 12th, Conlan nailed Wood with repeated left hands to the head and seemed to be on his way to winning the fight. However, Conlan made the mistake of backing up against the ropes, which was something his trainer had repeatedly told him not to do.
Once Conlan was trapped against the ropes, a desperate Wood unloaded everything but the kitchen sink on him, sending him out of the ring back first. Conlan was badly hurt and the paramedics immediately were called and they took him to a nearby hospital.
The time of the stoppage was at 1:25 of the 12th round.
In rounds one through four, Conlan troubled Wood with his powerful body shots, and his looping lefts to the head.
More than anything, the shots to the midsection from Conlan seemed to bother Wood greatly. He showed weakness when taking the body shots from Conlan, who isn’t known for his power, but it didn’t matter. Obviously, Wood can’t handle body shots.
After the contest, Wood made it known that he would like to fight the winner of the Josh Warrington vs. Kiko Martinez fight or WBO 126-lb champion Emanuel Navarrete.
It would be a good idea for Wood to stay away from Navarrete because he’s an excellent puncher, and he would take advantage of his inability to handle body shots.
“We’re waiting for news. His eyes were open and he was talking,” said Eddie Hearn to Boxing Social after the fight in talking about Conlan’s condition.
“He wanted to get up in the end, but the paramedics wanted to make sure he was treated okay,” Hearn continued about Conlan. “He was out unconscious standing up and then fell through the ropes.
“His brother caught him on the way down, and the fight was over, there was no way he could continue. We should be celebrating right now but all we can think about is Michael Conlan,” said Hearn.
“I can’t believe it. Ben Davison said to me after the 11th round, ‘How do you got it?’ I said, ‘He has to knock him out to win,’ and I stood up after the knockdown in the 11th, which might not have been.
“I said to Leigh Wood, ‘You have to knock him out to win.’ But how often when you need to knock somebody out do you actually do it? Hopefully, we can watch that fight back and give it the proper praise of one of the greatest comebacks we’ve ever seen. But only when we find out Michael is Ok.
“He buzzed Conlan and hit him with the right hand, and he was out. Steve Gray jumped in and obviously and he fell through the ropes quickly. There was no way, he was gone.
Still, I felt in the eighth and the ninth, he was just finding his feet,” said Hearn about the 33-year-old Wood. “Don’t forget that the knockdown in the first was so heavy, and I couldn’t believe Leigh Wood survived the second and the third because he was totally gone.
“But to do that in the 12th round, speechless. We’ll wrap it up quite quickly because I want to make sure he’s ok,” said Hearn about Conlan.