Leigh Wood stopped Xu Can in the 12th
‘Leigh-thal’ made history by becoming only the second boxer from Nottingham to become world champion – following in the footsteps of former IBF super middleweight champion Carl Froch, who was watching from the ring.
Having only competed at British level throughout his career, Wood was seen as a competitor to Can, but by the opening bells it was clear that the powerful, Ben Davison-trained puncher belonged on the big stage.
As the fight kicked into the championship rounds, Can tried to get his foot on the feet when he felt his crown slip, but he would pay for that approach in one memorable final session. A great right hand dropped the Chinese fighter, and after getting to his feet, Wood wasted no time in forcing the stop.
“It feels good, you know, to take the break in a great and fast-paced fight over the line, the last round with a time limit of six weeks I couldn’t have done more,” Wood said afterwards to Matchroom.
“I said in an interview that I’ll get him clean and it’s not up to me how long the fight lasts, it’s pretty much up to him. I could have done that all night. He got some big shots, big heart, honor, but the piling has its effects too. The shot I took him down with wasn’t as big as the one I got him with earlier, but they took their toll, I got him and got the interruption.
“I believed in my power, not only do I have great power, I also know how to get it, how to set it up and how to mix it up. That’s the biggest factor about working with Ben, Lee Wylie and Barry Smith, they really changed the game for me.
“He definitely didn’t throw 120 strokes per round and that’s because of the game plan. Everyone said, how are you going to do it, what are you going to do, are you going to hit him hard, are you going to hold him, it was the game plan. Even the audience doesn’t get it, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Hopefully the younger generations see this and think you know what, he made it, world champion, British, Commonwealth, European, hopefully people decide to get a pair of boxing gloves and start their journey.
“Ben and Lee said to me that when I went into this fight they were never so sure that someone was doing the right tactic as I was. I thought that was a big statement, I did everything they asked of me. I’ve pretty much perfected it and I give credit to these guys for getting it right – I just do what I’m told and it works.
“I’m just, redemption with Dickens would be great for me. Full of confidence that Ben is doing my tactics right for this fight, I had a bad night in this fight, I boxed the first southpaw as a professional, I would of course like to correct that.
“But when there are bigger fights, I said I wanted the Navarrete fight, it’s explosive like me, it will be an absolute fireworks display. People could tell me it’s a regular title, let’s fight for the super title, let’s unite – I want big fights.
“My career had stalled earlier. In three years I was British, Commonwealth, WBO European Champion and now World Champion. My best years are definitely coming. “