Featherweight Leigh Wood, 24-2 (16), has a huge task ahead of him as he looks to snatch Xu Can’s WBA ‘regular’ crown at Fight Camp 2 in Brentwood this weekend.
The pair clash at Matchroom HQ on Saturday night, exclusively live on DAZN, and it marks a huge opportunity for Wood to demonstrate that he belongs at world level. China’s Can Xu, 18-2 (3), has held the WBA 'regular’ strap since 2019 after defeating Jesus Rojas and ‘Monster’ is widely considered to be one of the finest fighters at 126lbs.
Wood, however, is relishing the opportunity and is “fully focused” on pulling off the upset. Speaking on the Betfred Boxing Show via Matchroom, the 32-year-old said: “I’m trying to enjoy it but not get too excited or wrapped up into how big it is and what it’s for.
“I always try and take the pressure off, focus on my opponent, take away what it’s for, take away how much I’m getting paid, take away the status of it, and just focus on my opponent.
“I’m gonna enjoy fight week like I always do, I always enjoy every little bit of it, and soak it up but I’m just remaining fully focused on the job as well.”
The news that Wood would challenge for the world featherweight title against Can on week one of Fight Camp’s return came as a shock to many within the boxing world, but the Nottinghamshire native insists he’s in the best place physically to take on the Chinese fighter.
“My first thought is ‘Where am I at fitness wise?’ Luckily, I’m a fighter who goes back into the gym after a little break, after a fight - some fighters only train when they have a fight date. I’m ticking over and that's kind of what’s paid off for me.
“Being in the gym, being ready, being at a certain percentage away from a fight and then six weeks’ notice is just enough time to get me ready for a fight. So I got the news, spoke to Ben [trainer Ben Davison], looked at the styles and Ben was confident pretty much straight away, obviously we looked at where my fitness was, and it didn’t take long to come back with a decision and take the fight.”
Wood hooked up with new trainer Davison ahead of his last fight, a ninth round TKO of Reece Mould in February at Wembley, and thinks the strategy the former Tyson Fury cornerman has conjured ahead of Can will be crucial, as long as he puts the work in.
“The game plan Ben’s come up with is bang on and I can’t wait to go out and get the job done on Saturday night.”
“Once we get a game plan, it’s not as simple as ‘right, we know what we need to do.’ You need to practice what you’re going to be doing and he doesn’t let you rest, doesn’t let you switch off - everyday, we’re drilling it and drilling it until we’re literally sick of drilling it. I’ll be drilling it tonight, I’ll be drilling it tomorrow and I’ll maybe be drilling a light session after I’ve weighed-in
“There’s no excuses not getting it right, his game plan is always spot on, I don’t think he’s got it wrong yet. I’ve got my full 100% trust in the game plan and my preparation and I’ve just got to go out there and execute it.”
As for the man that will be stepping into the opposite corner come Saturday night at Matchroom HQ, Wood knows he has a fearsome reputation but he says he won’t fall into the same traps Can’s previous opponents have.
“I don’t think he’s been in with someone that is as devastating with power as me and can mix their power up. He’s fought some good kids but, like I said, not as devastating as my power.
“There’s more to this fight than just me coming out and blasting him away. You need to be smart, you need to set your shots up and loads of individual things in between the moments that I’ve been working on. I’m excited though.
“If you stand there with him and let him get momentum, you’re in for a very long, hard night with him. You won’t fight anyone to their strengths, you’d be stupid to do that and all his previous opponents have done that."