Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Sport Chairman:
“We know this primary event fight between Michael Conlan and Leigh Wood is taking place in Nottingham, but we wanted to come to Belfast because it’s been a while since we’ve been here for a fight.
(Photo credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)
“So many times, over the years, we’ve seen young fighters from Belfast come through and fill up arenas, here in the Odyssey Arena, and of course fight so successfully in England and America.
“This young man, Caoimhin Agyarko, we’ve never really had the opportunity to do a proper press conference with him because of COVID restrictions and the world we live in, but we’re delighted to welcome this young man to the Matchroom Boxing and DAZN team.
“About three or four years ago, someone approached me, said we have an exceptional fighter here you need to look at. We get many phone calls; we’d just finished the Olympics, and we were signing fighters, and unfortunately, I’d never heard of Caoimhin Agyarko and didn’t sign him that day. When I watched him fight after that, I kicked myself very quickly and said we missed one there.
“When the opportunity came up with Paul Ready and STN to sign him recently, we signed him immediately. He won his first title, the WBA International Title in Liverpool, great performance, and I’m delighted to announce that Caoimhin Agyarko will be in a major title fight on the March 12 card in Nottingham.”
Leigh Wood – Nottingham, England – 25-2, 15 KOs – making the first defense of his WBA Featherweight World Title against Michael Conlan:
“I’m not a performing monkey, and I’m a fighter. I’m not a media dream, and I’ve not been managed well; I’ve done it from the bottom up. I’ve earned everything off my own back the hard way.
“In my opinion, I don’t think Mick’s ever been in a 50/50 fight, this is new for him, but I’ve come through those challenges. I’ve been in the bookies, not favorite, and come out the other side from a pressure point of view. He is correct, there’s going to be many people and a lot of pressure, but I thrive on pressure. The whole career, I’ve been thrown in and come out the other side, we’ve got seven weeks to find out, and I can’t wait.
“My greatest assets don’t even get talked about one bit, dedication; I’ve put my life on hold because boxing is everything to me. I don’t need to nit-pick through his performances; I know what I’m going to do, I know exactly what I’m going to do. Since a young age, it always has been that he’s going to look at these defeats, but that’s going to work in my favor.
“Michael’s a great fighter, he’s had some great wins and is going to be a considerable challenge, but I know what I need to do on fight night. He’s a grand champion, a great public image in Ireland, massive, all the best on fight night because he will need it.
“I’ve been there before, in fights in my career, in my life. I’ve not had a promoter, anyone, steering me in the right direction, and I’ve not had my dad taking me to the gym from a young age. I walked in the gym on my own 10/11 years old, and it takes a lot to do that, to get to this point on my own. I’ve got here on my own with pure determination and grit, resilience and refusal to give up, and that’s what it’s going to take to come through this fight, and that’s what I do.”
Ben Davison, trainer of Leigh Wood:
“There’s a complete difference between saying I think someone’s going to lose a fight and being realistic, which is vital in my opinion. You can lose a war if you go the wrong way about a row. This is a fight that if either man goes the wrong way about the battle, they can lose – that’s why it’s drawn so much, and the ticket sales are flying. It is that type of fight.
“I think it’s important to me that you have to be realistic; you have to have the mental strength to absorb that and perform at your absolute best.
“Leigh’s extremely mentally strong, I’ve worked with other elite fighters, and Leigh’s got one of the best mindsets going into a fight of any soldiers I’ve worked with. I believe in Leigh, and I think in his mindset, of course.
“There’s been adjustments along the way, maturity, whatever it is – I stand on what I said. I’m not going to be deluded and say Mick can’t rack up a few rounds; of course, he can. He’s a very talented boxer and a very versatile fighter. I believe that certain tendencies and habits are there that leave us with the opportunity to find that fight-changing moment will happen on the night.
“I don’t think size physically will be a factor; no, although he’s not known as a strong fighter, Mick is stronger than what his record may suggest. There’s a reason he struggles to make super-bantamweight, he’s not tiny, but Leigh is a good size featherweight. I don’t think we’re going to go into the fight relying on physical attributes, and it’s a tactical thing that he’s going to win this fight.”
Michael Conlan – Belfast, Northern Ireland – 16-0, 8 KOs – challenging Leigh Wood for the WBA Featherweight World Title:
“I’m in the back garden, and I want to come and say what I want to say. There was no fear in me, I’m there, and I’m going to talk my shit and say what I needed to say. Leigh stutters; he tries to spit things out and isn’t making sense, but you know, it’s part of the fight game.
“I love this; this stuff gets me ready to go; I could fight right now. I’m glad to go right now. Leigh is not and doesn’t need to be until the fight night 100%. That’s the thing, I’ve stayed professional, I’ve been in training since September, I thought I was fighting in December – I kept training, stayed in shape, stayed fit. March 12, you’ll hear I’m new, and that’s all I want to say.
“I know exactly what it’s like fighting under that pressure of fighting at home, I’ve done it three times, and every show has been massive. There were loads of people there, so much expectation, a purpose-built arena in a park. This guy doesn’t understand it, and he’s never felt it; you can see his demeanor has changed from yesterday.
“He doesn’t understand the pressure that comes with fighting in your home city, he had the opportunity to fight at MSG, and he can come to Belfast and fight if he wanted to. But no, he wants to fight in Nottingham, in the City Ground, before he retires. He knows I can beat him.
“There are possibilities in anybody losing, anybody, I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but he will not beat me. It’s as simple as that. I respect him as a fighter and a person but again fuck all that until the fight is over. Once the war is over, shake his hand. Happy days, I can’t wait.
“I’m ready to go right to the end, and it doesn’t matter; this fight means everything to me. I’ve taken myself away from both my children; the first time I’ve seen them in four weeks was last night, and it’ll be the last time I see them in seven weeks until the fight. This is my life; the only thing I know is boxing; believe me, on March 12, I’ll be the new, 100%.
“This is the start of my journey to become the best fighter in the world, and once I win this belt, I’ll go on to do what I have to do after. I have to win this belt first before I even have to think about that.”
Jamie Conlan, Conlan Boxing:
“We know we’re the B side in this, and we didn’t fly on private jets this morning; we passed on friendly British Airways with the security lads – it was a very tight squeeze. We said yesterday what this means to the family, Michael, and Ireland.
“Michael has carried the flag of Ireland from 2012, pressure on his shoulders that other fighters cannot comprehend. Leigh can’t understand the pressure Michael’s had to fight under, whether through the Olympics or World Championships as an amateur, under the microscope as a professional, making his debut headlining a card.
“No one does that; that brings scrutiny and more eyeballs to you, which is very hard to match; he’s had to learn in front of everybody and learn the hard way because he’s been open to criticism and scrutiny. This was all worth it to get to this point because there was a lot of learning, ups, and downs during the four years he’s been pro.
“We’ve done it across America, over here, now we’re going to Nottingham. As I said yesterday, this is destiny, going to the opponent’s backyard and becoming a legend, creating a legacy. Ripping it away from him in front of his family and friends, the people he’s crowded up with, it doesn’t get much sweeter.
“We’re working-class kids from West Belfast, and it’s an area that breeds them tough; we’ve come through tough times. It’s ingrained in us; everyone in this room has a bit of fight that they don’t have in places like Nottingham. This is a tough city; they breed them hard.
“He’s going to get everything checked, and I expect this to be his toughest test; Leigh Wood is a fantastic fighter – the hardest hitting featherweight in the world I’ve heard Ben say. Harder hitting than Oscar Valdez, he said yesterday, he’s going to test Michael differently, no doubt about it.
“He’s strong, and he’s tall, he’s bigger, he’s got every advantage, they think he’s more skillful. They think he’s got every advantage over Michael, so it’s exciting. It adds to the intrigue, proving people wrong and the big ship we have on our shoulders.
“It’s going to be so good when March 12 comes, sitting 11-midnight with the new WBA World Featherweight Champion and a nice big f*ck you to everyone else.
“Everything I started yesterday was true, I allowed him to own up, and he didn’t, so he lied. Everything he says from here on in, I don’t believe, it’s bullsh*t.
“I like Leigh, and I like Ben, but everything I stated was true. I believe Ben believes in Leigh’s power; does he believe in anything else? No, he doesn’t.” We also have more proof, screenshots from texts stating Ben’s doubts about Leigh Wood.
Caoimhin Agyarko – Belfast, Northern Ireland – 10-0, 7 KOs – undefeated Middleweight contender:
“Another Irish card, it was a great win for me last time out, a great learning fight, an unbeaten opponent who came to fight. I could have performed better, but thankfully I’m out in quick succession and looking to improve from that win.
“The Belfast fans have always supported me, the amateurs, and now into my professional career. I saw in Liverpool it was very noisy when I was fighting, and I expect the same in Nottingham – especially with Mick on the card. It’s a great card for me to be on; by the end of the year, I want to be headlining shows or fighting back home in Belfast and giving them some great nights.
“I have said in the past that I’m a ten-fight novice, another two of three step-ups, and I’ll be ready to headline shows back home. I put myself in the top 15 in the world, and that’s where I wanted to be by the end of 2021. Heading in 2022, it’s to go and get some names on the record.
“An Irish invasion, every person at this press conference will be at the fight and plenty more. It will be very noisy, and I can’t relish the moment, hopefully, have a good performance and a good win.”
Tickets for Wood vs. Conlan are priced £40, £60, £80, £100, £150, and £300 (VIP).
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