Michael Conlan has drawn inspiration from combat sports’ most famous Irish fighter during his trip into hostile territory.
“As Conor McGregor famously says, the Irish are not here to take part – we’re here to take over,” Conlan told BoxingScene.com. “And that’s what this is.”
The “this” to which Conlan referred is the undefeated featherweight contender’s shot at WBA world champion Leigh Wood’s title Saturday night. Their 12-round, 126-pound championship match will take place at Nottingham Arena in Wood’s hometown of Nottingham, England.
Belfast’s Conlan is consistently listed as slightly less than a 2-1 favorite versus Wood, who will make the first defense of a title that the underestimated underdog won seven months ago. Wood overwhelmed China’s Can Xu (18-3, 3 KOs) before he dropped and stopped the defending champion late in the 12th round July 31 at Matchroom Boxing’s headquarters in Brentwood, England.
“I’ve seen Leigh Wood the last few years,” Conlan said. “He beat a friend of mine, so I know how dangerous he can be when he’s on form. I think he’s a very good fighter. He has good power, has good shot selection, good, hard resistance. So, he will fight to the very end. That’s what he will do, but I don’t think he’ll be a match for me.”
Former IBF junior featherweight champ TJ Doheny was no match for Conlan in the 2016 Olympian’s most recent action. Conlan dominated Doheny (22-3, 16 KOs), dropped the Irish southpaw with a body shot during the fifth round and won their 12-round bout by wide distances on all three scorecards – 119-108, 116-111 and 116-111 – on August 6 at Falls Park in Belfast.
The 30-year-old Conlan believes defeating Wood (25-2, 15 KOs) in the champion’s hometown would provide more evidence that he has improved since he returned to the featherweight division last year after temporarily campaigning as a junior featherweight.
“It would mean a lot,” Conlan said. “It would be really nice. And I know I will do it. I think this is the type of fight that will bring out the best in me and have people say, ‘Oh, we’ve gotta take a little bit of notice now. He’s not just, you know, this guy from the Olympics. He’s actually a very good fighter.’ I think this is the type of fight where I’ll be able to show that. Leigh Wood is the type of opponent who will help bring that out.”
DAZN will stream Wood-Conlan as a main event Saturday night. The streaming service’s coverage of that card is set to start at 7 p.m. GMT and 2 p.m. ET.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.