Leigh Wood is eager to emulate fellow Nottingham fighter Carl Froch by becoming a regular headline attraction in his home city as he prepares to make the first defence of his Commonwealth Featherweight crown against Ryan Doyle at the Motorpoint Arena Nottingham this Friday, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
Wood, who went to the same school as former Super-Middleweight World Champion Froch, claimed the Commonwealth belt by halting Abraham Osei Bonsu in two rounds in Peterborough and is promising to deliver another explosive performance as he looks to take over from Froch as the flagbearer for boxing in Nottingham.
“It’s not just about defending my belt successfully,” said Wood. “It’s all about putting in a performance worthy of headlining a show in my own city. It’s vital that I impress everyone attending the arena and watching at home if I want to boost my profile. Nottingham hasn’t had a show like this in nearly seven years so this is a huge chance to revitalise boxing in the city and I’m sure myself and the other fighters on the card won’t disappoint.
“Doyle is big for the weight, he’s got the height and range to cause problems. I think he brings the same thing every time but it’s definitely going to be a hard fight and a good test for me. He’s a former champion so it’s another step up from my previous opponent who I beat fairly comfortably. There’s a bit of pressure on him because if he loses against me it’ll be two on the bounce and he’ll have to drop down a level. If I’m at my best, which I will be, he won’t get anywhere near me let alone beat me.”
Nottingham boxing legend Froch announced his retirement from the sport in 2015 after a hugely successful career that saw him crowned World Champion four times. ‘The Cobra’ championed his home city throughout his career and will be remembered as one of its greatest sportsmen; Wood is determined to make Nottingham a regular fixture for Matchroom Boxing once more.
“He was a role model when I was coming through. He was a real inspiration and he still is. Carl achieved massive things for this city and he’s always been someone that I’ve looked up to throughout my own career. We went to the same amateur club, when I was a kid I remember watching him in the gym and he was a machine. He’s from the same little village as me so we’ve got a lot in common. When it comes to our boxing we’re not very similar, we’ve got different styles, but I definitely draw inspiration from him.
“When Froch retired a lot of fight fans had nobody to follow and they’ve been craving someone to support and get behind for a while now. There’s a big opportunity for me to take over as the flagbearer for boxing in my city so a big performance on Friday is vital for me. I love boxing in Nottingham and I would have every fight here if I could! My ticket sales for this fight have been great, they’ve been flying and it’ll be the biggest fanbase I’ve had yet. I need a performance to reflect that.”
The City Ground, home of EFL Championship side Nottingham Forest FC, will host tomorrow’s final press conference ahead of Friday night’s action and ‘Leigh-thal’, a huge Forest fan, would love to go one better by fighting at the home of his beloved club one day.
“I’ve been down Forest since I was a kid and they’ve always backed me heavily. I’ve been on the pitch a few times but to show off my new Commonwealth belt in March was special and I’m grateful for all of their support. I was taken back by the reception I received, there was plenty of chanting and applause.
“I would love to fight at The City Ground but it would have to be a big fight. It could happen, I’ve just got to keep winning, keep looking good and keep on improving. The only thing in my career that I’ve been missing for the past few years is momentum and now I’ve got the momentum I just want to push on.”
Sheffield amateur standout Dalton Smith is dreaming of becoming the next boxing great to come out of the Steel City as he prepares to make his highly-anticipated professional debut at the Motorpoint Arena Nottingham on Friday, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
Sheffield has long been a city that produces world-class boxers and Smith, the city’s most successful ever amateur, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of former World Champions such as Herol Graham, Johnny Nelson and Kell Brook.
Fighting out of Sheffield’s Steel City gym, 22-year-old Smith, who is trained by his father Grant Smith alongside WBC Flyweight Champion of the World Charlie Edwards, is excited to begin his journey towards a World title in the professional ranks.
“The ultimate goal is to one day become a World Champion and bring a title back to Sheffield,” said Smith. “It’s about building a legacy. I’ll be setting small goals and then working towards them and then setting bigger goals. But early on, I just want to stay active and gain as much experience as I can. As long as I’m learning all the time then I believe I will get there eventually. I want to have a successful pro career and have some fun along the way.
“Growing up I was massively inspired by Prince Naseem Hamed. Fighters all around the World idolised him, not just here in Sheffield. He was one of the greatest. I want to put my name up in the spotlight alongside the likes of Johnny Nelson, Prince Naz and Ryan Rhodes. Sheffield’s always been a good fighting city and it’s growing again now. I feel if I work hard enough and am guided in the right way, then I feel I can get there.
“I want to stay active up until Christmas, get as many fights in as I can and just learn and push on for next year. I don’t need to rush things as I’m still only 22. The professional game is a new environment for me but having the World Series of Boxing experience behind me is going to put me in good stead. It’s not going to be anything too new to me, I’ve been there before and I think I’ll cope well with the small changes.”
Smith makes his professional debut on a huge night of boxing in Nottingham.
Remaining tickets priced £40, £60 and £120 (VIP) are available to purchase from StubHub (www.stubhub.co.uk), Motorpoint Arena Nottingham (www.motorpointarenanottingham.com) (Box Office tel: 0843 373 3000) and Matchroom Boxing (www.matchroomboxing.com)