Leigh Wood is ready for anything that McDonnell throws at him
The saying goes that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. On Saturday night, many viewers of Sky Sports will get their first glimpse of Nottinghamís Lee Wood, (11-0, 4 KOs) and, if things go the way Wood expects, it wonít be the last time they see him.
The 25-year-old fights the unbeaten Gavin McDonnell, (10-0-1, 3 KOs), for the vacant British super bantamweight belt and is eagerly counting down the hours to his first major title opportunity. Not that the opportunity to fight for the famous Lonsdale belt after just eleven fights has taken Wood by surprise.
ďI wonít say a surprise because although I thought Barry [stablemate Barry Awad, otherwise known as Kid Galahad] was gonna defend it three times to win it outright., looking whoís around he wouldnít have been able to do that without fighting me,Ē Wood told Livefight. ďHeíd have had to have a rematch with Jazza Dickens or fight Gavin and then rematch Jazza or fight me. Either way, without fighting me he wouldnít have been able to do it without waiting around. He got that shot at the European title and then I kind of knew. I thought Iíd be fighting for the Commonwealth or the British title. Iím glad itís the British though. Thatís the one I want.Ē
Wood fights out of the Ingle Gym in Sheffield and, since the Yorkshire boxing community is quite close knit, it is something of a surprise to learn that his and McDonnellís paths have never crossed. While he hasnít been able to gain any first-hand knowledge of the challenges that will face him on Saturday night, Wood has been able to carry out a watching brief and is extremely confident that he is more than capable of dealing with anything McDonnell might throw at him.
ďIím from Nottingham myself. I train in Sheffield but Iíve never sparred with him or his brother but heís been on my radar for a while. I pretty much knew that our paths would cross as heís a super bantamweight and heís unbeaten. Iíve watched him fight for the past few months. I followed the Paul Economides fight and watched the Josh Wale fight too [McDonnell won unanimous decisions over both].
ďWithout going too much in to it I donít think thereís anything that Gavin McDonnell can do better than me, without sounding big headed or anything. Heís sometimes quite negative. He likes to jab, has a tight guard and likes to back up a lot, I donít know why. No matter what Gavin McDonnell turns up on the night, Iím confident of getting the win.
ďWeíre prepared for anything. I have good sparring and we change every round. We cover all styles so some will come forward, some go back and some like to stand and fight. No matter how McDonnell wants to approach me, weíve not trained for specifics. Weíre prepared for the unexpected.
Looking at what Gavin McDonnell usually does, there are no problems there for me.Ē
Wood will have to produce the performance of his short professional career if he is to take the Lonsdale belt. To date, he has faced just one opponent with a winning record [Genilson de Jesus Santos, who was (23-5) when Wood stopped him inside three rounds last November] and McDonnell is a massive step up. Wood is relishing the prospect of facing a fighter with ambition and is positive that the time he spent as a member of the Team GB boxing team will stand him in good stead once the leather starts flying.
ďI havenít really boxed anyone yet but Iíve had good experience as an amateur. I boxed at an elite level and had success so obviously I can handle kids throwing back at me. Iím looking forward to a bit of a test.
ďOn my record I have four stoppages out of eleven but every time Iíve boxed at super bantamweight or featherweight Iíve got them out of there. All the other kids have been a lot heavier than me. Kids that are throwing back are more susceptible to getting hit rather than journeymen who come and cover up, move, hold and do whatever they have to do to get through the fight and get paid. If Gavin McDonnell somehow manages to land a shot on me, I will be hitting him back. I canít wait.Ē
Lifting the British title would open up a wide range of possibilities. As McDonnell is Woodís first Ďnameí opponent, there would be plenty of attractive opponents available for defences of the belt. The Commonwealth title is another realistic target and Ė should Galahad continue his current rate of progress Ė 2015 could see Wood in a similar position to the one he is now, with Galahad leaving behind the European title for his gym mate to fight for.
ďIím a bit of an unknown at the minute,Ē he said. ďIím not in the limelight as they say. The super bantamweight division is red hot with Quigg, Frampton and Barry hot on their heels behind them. Iím one step behind them.
ďIím not overlooking this fight, I never overlook anyone. Iíve been asked in a few interviews if Iím training harder for this fight but I train hard all year around for every fight. Iíve always given 100%. Iím always improving and over the two and a half years since Iíve been at the Ingle Gym Iíve improved so much. Iíve dedicated myself completely to boxing and I hope itís gonna show in this next fight, just like itís shown in the last three or four. Iím so excited to be in this division. I could have stayed at featherweight but I think super bantamweight has the most interesting fights.Ē
Limited tickets remain on sale priced £30, £40, £60 and £120 for VIPs and are available from Matchroom Sport on 01277 359900 and at www.matchroomboxing.com
The bill will be shown live and exclusively on Sky Sports HD