By: Hans Themistode
Michael Conlan was increasingly confident as his showdown against Leigh Wood inched closer. With the former Olympic standout earning his first crack at a world title, albeit a secondary one, the 30-year-old from Ireland refused to let his golden opportunity go to waste.
As the sound of the opening bell rang through Nottingham Arena, Conlan attempted to establish his jab. A calm, cool, and collected Wood bobbed side to side as the shots of Conlan bounced innocuously off his gloves. The WBA “Regular” featherweight titlist then proceeded to pump his own jab into the face of his man. After finding success, Wood then followed up with a combination, all of which connected square on the face of Conlan.
Wood continued his mastery into the waning seconds of the round until he took his eyes off the prize momentarily. Those precious seconds were all Conlan needed as he dropped Wood with an enormous left hook. To the credit of Wood, he immediately bounced back up to his feet but he never appeared right.
With one full minute to recover, Wood seemed to be unsure of himself in the second. He reluctantly and cautiously stayed away from the left hand of Conlan during the period. Still, even with Wood fighting more defensively, Conlan boxed beautifully. He landed the eye-catching and noteworthy shots while Wood continued his recovery process.
It wasn’t until round four where Wood appeared to look like his normal self. He promptly pushed Conlan back and turned the former Olympian into a brawler as opposed to a boxer. With Conlan fighting Wood’s fight, the secondary titlist had his most productive round yet.
As the momentum, however, continued for Wood through the halfway point of round six, Conlan settled things down with a strong jab and uncanny foot movement. No longer was Wood able to control his man with his forearms and elbows in the corner of the ring. Instead, Conlan made him miss and more importantly, pay, whenever he got in close.
In the eighth, Conlan boxed circles around Wood. At one point, he landed three consecutive jabs before punctuating the combination with a right hand. As blood trickled down Conlan’s left eye, he turned his attack toward the midsection of his man.
Throughout much of their contest, Conlan had his way. But, with the championship rounds now approaching and Wood seemingly down heavily on the scorecards, he threw all of his technique out the window and simply went for it.
In the penultimate round, Wood’s aggression pushed him even closer to retaining his world title. With only a few seconds remaining in the round, Wood scored his first knockdown of the night. While he was unable to follow up with the round ending, Wood picked up where he left off in the final frame.
A defensive Conlan moved back cautiously as Wood crept forward. In a bit of a perplexing turn, Wood landed a sharp right hand that saw Conlan’s body go limp. The former Olympian slumped onto the bottom ropes where Wood began unloading.
With a nonstop barrage of punches, Wood refused to let up until Conlan was thrown violently from the ring, leading to an epic ending and come from behind victory.
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