Despite all the post-fight talk of bringing big-time boxing back to Nottingham, Leigh Wood might have to travel when he next steps in the ring due to the rematch clause in his contract to fight Xu Can.
Wood pulled off a big upset to stop Can in the final round at Fight Camp on Saturday night to claim the WBA “regular” featherweight title and happily told reporters that he hoped it would lead to a fight at the City Ground, home stadium of Nottingham Forest.
The rematch clause makes that unlikely, although Wood said he would not mind if he had to go to China for the rematch.
“No problem,” Wood said. “I had six weeks’ notice for this fight. With a 12-week camp, let’s do it again.”
By the time Wood had got back to his changing room at Fight Camp after being crowned WBA featherweight title, it was past midnight, which meant he had just turned 33. It might not be the most conspicuous landmark birthday, but it was one Wood will never forget.
He had been handpicked by Can’s promoters Golden Boy as the opponent to help Can shake off some ring rust having not boxed since 2019. It proved to be a poor choice as Wood dominated Can throughout.
Wood only became a British champion in February after nearly a decade as a professional. “A life-changing night,” was how Eddie Hearn put it.
Wood had only been given six weeks’ notice for the fight, but worked out a plan with his trainer, Ben Davison, and it worked to perfection. It continued a remarkable run for Davison, the trainer of Josh Taylor, the undisputed world super-lightweight champion, who has not trained a boxer for a defeat since 2016.
“I was stood with Ben when I got the message offering me the fight,” Wood said. “Ben just said ‘we can win this fight’. It took about three minutes to say yes.
“It was down to the gameplan. I worked on it day in, day out, even last night and I got text messages before the fight, just to remind me what I need to do. It is down to those guys, I had full belief in them, and full cinfdence in going out and doing it. It is just part of the process, little paragraphs I need to remember, key points.”
If the Xu rematch dies not happen for some reason, a fight against the winner of Saturday’s IBF featherweight fight between Kid Galahad – a former gym-mate of Wood – and Jazza Dickens – who beat Wood 18 months ago – or Josh Warrington, if he wins he rematch with Mauricio Lara on September 4.
“I tell you what, they are coming to Nottingham,” Wood said.
The last time big-time boxing happened in Nottingham was during the heyday of Carl Froch, who was in the crowd on Saturday night cheering on a man who was twice on his undercards at Nottingham Arena – two very different night for Wood.
“I was supposed to box on the Lucian Bute bill, but I was the floater, and the Carl Frampton fight (with Raul Hirales) went too long and I never got on,” Wood said. “But I the boxed on the Yusaf Mack bill.
“It was brilliant, because when they brought me out the place was packed. It was a great experience of boxing in front of a massive home crowd.
“I was devastated on the Bute night. It was terrible, I warmed up three times and didn’t fight. But when I saw Carl after he won, it was a great night.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.