Ben Davison makes bold Leigh Wood statement ahead of '50-50' title fight

Leigh Wood makes the first defence of his WBA featherweight title this weekend against Michael Conlan and he will have to rely on more than raw punch power to get the job done.

Leigh Wood "hits harder than middleweights" and is the hardest pound-for-pound puncher in the UK, according to his trainer Ben Davison.

The 33-year-old Wood makes the first defence of his WBA featherweight title this weekend against Michael Conlan in his home town of Nottingham.

It's the biggest challenge of Wood's 10-year professional career after he dominated China's Xu Can last summer.

Xu was unbeaten for seven years, but Wood stepped in with just six weeks' notice to dominate his rival to earn the biggest victory of his career.

On Saturday at the Motorpoint Arena comes the defence of that title against unbeaten Irish switch-hitter Conlan.

It's a "real 50-50 fight", according to Davison, who currently trains undisputed light-welterweight champion Josh Taylor. The bookies though don't see it that way and Planet Sport Bet have Conlan as the 8/15 favourite with Wood a 13/8 shot.

Wood, who did not know which way to turn after losing to Jazza Dickens in February 2020, has come back strongly and the big puncher has 15 knockouts on his 27-fight record.

Davison though knows that he will need more than power to see off Conlan (16-0).

"He's very strong," Davison told IrishNews.

"I've worked with a lot of the top fighters in the UK and, pound-for-pound, Leigh Wood is by far the hardest puncher. I don't reckon he is, I know it for sure - he hits harder than middleweights that I've trained.

"But I'm sure Mick has faced other big punchers, he has been in training camps with Oscar Valdez so the power in itself is not going to win the fight for Leigh. Mick is a very versatile, well-skilled fighter so he needs to be smart and world class in how he creates the scenarios to be able to land his shots."

Whether or not Davison's bullish talk about his man's firepower is being used a distraction tool is anyone's guess. But Wood can box as well, as he showed against Xu.

He was ahead of the scorecards before he got the late stoppage against the Chinese star. And while Conlan may well be a bit more difficult to pin down, switching from orthodox to southpaw, Davison believes his man has the tools to get the job done.

Home support

"When Leigh won the world title against Can Xu, they were saying: 'Wood has to knock him out, he can't win on points'," he added.

"He stopped him in the 12th round but he was well ahead on points. I don't think it's a case of Conlan can only win on points, he punches harder than people think he does.

"At the same time, I don't think Leigh can only win on knockout, he's a better boxer than people give him credit for. It's a great fight, a real 50-50 fight and any outcome is possible."

Davison has gone on record previously suggesting his man's ability to fight under pressure will come into its own. And with a world title to defend in front of close to 10,000 home fans, he will need a cool head.

"I was asked when we landed in Scotland with Josh Taylor whether the crowd in Glasgow was going to be an advantage or a disadvantage," said Davison.

"I thought that at the beginning of the fight it was going to be a disadvantage because of the character that Josh is. However, with Leigh and the character he is, I think home support and the atmosphere will be an advantage."

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