Two Huge Upsets In One Night: Jonnie Rice & Leigh Wood Remind Us Again How Special Boxing Can Be

I don’t know if you’re a betting man, but if you are, and if you placed a wager on last night’s double upset coming off – Jonathan Rice over Michael Coffie and Leigh Wood over Can Xu – you will be holding quite a bundle of cash right now. In England, Leigh was a “Monster” underdog against the defending WBA featherweight champ from China, with Xu placed as a 7/1 favourite in some places.

But Leigh of Nottingham boxed brilliantly in winning most of the rounds and then leaving no doubt by scoring a 12th round TKO win over the now 18-3(3) Xu. Promoter Eddie Hearn says Wood “schooled” the defending champion. Hearn also said that, with this great win, Wood has changed his life. 33 year old Wood, 25-2(15), who was extremely confident going into the fight, says he now wants “the big fights.” There is a rematch clause in place, Hearn has revealed, yet he said today that he is not sure the former champion, so comprehensively beaten as he was, will want to take it.

Wood’s win is one of those fairy-tale stories that the great and special sport of boxing can give us every now and then. It was a superb night for Wood at Matchroom HQ in Brentwood, Essex.

But over in Newark New Jersey, fight fans witnessed an even bigger upset. Jonathan Rice, a late replacement (for Gerald Washington), was listed as a 20/1 underdog going into his fight with the unbeaten Michael Coffie. Coffie, unbeaten at 12-0(9) was coming off a stoppage win over another unbeaten heavyweight in Darmani Rock, and though he is 35 years of age plenty of people felt Coffie would go on to do big things in the division. Certainly everyone felt Coffie would get the win over Rice. Well, almost everyone.

Rice, who had previously been beaten some six times, believed every bit as much as Wood did. And in basically handing Coffie a beating before getting the stoppage win in round five, the 34 year old from Los Angeles may well have changed his life as much as Wood changed his. It was indeed a feel-good night of boxing last night; for everyone apart from Xu and Coffie, that is.

There is always something to smile about when the underdog wins. Last night, we saw two big outsiders rise to the occasion and leave us all feeling good. What next for Wood? Maybe a fight with the winner of the upcoming Jazza Dickens-Kid Galahad fight, which will contest the vacant IBF featherweight title? Maybe a fight with one of the other big names in the currently buzzing 126 pound division?

What next for Rice? Maybe a fight with a Top-20 ranked opponent? Maybe even a Top-10 opponent?

Fans of both men will be cheering Wood and Rice on whenever and whoever they do fight next.