Xu Can must be careful when he meets challenger Leigh Wood in the new Fight Camp headliner because the Nottingham man has “ridiculous” punching power.
Wood’s trainer Ben Davison saw his man topple Reece Mould in their first fight together earlier this year and the coach is confident ahead of Wood’s bid to dethrone Can Xu, one of the world’s best featherweights.
Their contest was upgraded to the bill-topper after Conor Benn contracted Covid-19, forcing a delay to his fight with Adrian Granados and Davison has been amazed by how hard Wood hits since they joined forces.
“It’s ridiculous,” Davison said. “Pound for pound he’s the hardest puncher I’ve ever taken on the pads, by quite a long shot. But he needs more than just power. Billy Joe [Saunders] said to me that when he boxed David Lemieux he caught a body shot on the arm and knew he could not afford to be hit clean up top. But when he boxed Canelo he said Canelo could punch, but Lemieux could punch harder. However, look at the difference in level – you need more than just power to get you where you want to get to, to become a world champion.”
What does Ben put it down to? Wood has stopped 14 of 24 opponents but he’s fought for six various titles at a number of levels and won them all by stoppage.
“I think part of it is bone density, I’m a firm believer in that,” Davison explained. “You’ve got people like Deontay Wilder who has a different type of power, you get people who are just ‘dense’ punchers and that’s what I believe Leigh Wood is, he’s a very ‘dense’ puncher.”
Davison said the late move up the bill doesn’t really alter much, just a few small logistical details that need to be ironed out. The preparation and mindset remains the same.
“It just changes on the day what his nutrition will be because obviously he’ll have a little bit more time to fuel himself since he’s boxing a little bit later, but other than that nothing really changes,” Davison continued.
Xu has long been linked with a future showdown with Josh Warrington, who has a return bout with Mauricio Lara in September. Some would speculate that Xu is being brought over to be showcased in front of a British audience before Warrington faces Xu down the line. Ben sees that, too, but aims to disrupt the overall picture.
“That was probably the plan,” the coach admitted. “But, of course, we feel like it’s not going to go to plan.”
Their aim is to beat Xu and move on to bigger fights of their own.
“I don’t think Can Xu is the best featherweight in the world and that’s not taking anything away from Leigh’s win, God willing, on Saturday,” Davison added. “But I believe stylistically it’s a tough match for Can Xu as long as Leigh does the right things. If Leigh goes in there and does the wrong things, of course it’s going to be a tough fight for Leigh but stylistically I feel it’s a good fight for him and if he goes in there and does it, it will end up being a very solid performance from Leigh Wood.”
Xu is known for his all-action style and his prodigious punch output. Davison is not looking for his man to get involved in a war with hundreds of punches being thrown back and forth, he’s hoping his man’s quality will neutralize Xu’s quantity.
“If Leigh allows Can Xu to gain momentum and get into his flow without breaking that momentum often enough then Can Xu can become a problem,” Ben admitted. “But Leigh knows what he needs to do and as long as he does that, I believe he will come out victorious.”
Then what? Wood has two blemishes on his record, against Gavin McDonnell and Jazza Dickens, but he’s improved exponentially and is riding the crest of a wave, both in terms of form and confidence. How far can he go?
“It’s hard to say because he had a failed attempt at the British title earlier on in his career, it was a great achievement to do it in his next attempt and that was his dream since he was 11 years old,” said Ben. “I believe this is a world level fight. I would usually say the WBA regular title doesn’t make you a world champion but [Leo] Santa Cruz hasn’t really defended the 126-pound title for such a long time [so] I believe that does make the winner of this fight the WBA world champion and there’s obviously great fights to be made. Leigh had a great fight with Jazza before, he’s got history with Kid Galahad having been in the same gym for such a long time and there was talk of Can Xu-Josh Warrington so maybe that’s a possible match up [with Warrington], so there’s lots of options and it’s wide open for Leigh.”
The losses to McDonnell and Dickens have shaped the man and fighter Wood has become. He’s hungry to learn and improve and even though this is only their second fight together, Davison has seen Wood’s desire to get better.
“He’s proved that,” Ben concluded. “And the fact he had a failed attempt at a British title and then come back and then he had a win for the British title shows that. He’s only ever improved since those losses so that says it all.”