LEIGH WOOD proved his class on Friday night, as he took apart Ryan Doyle in 10 rounds at the Motorpoint Arena in his hometown of Nottingham to retain his Commonwealth featherweight title.
However, in the aftermath his focus wasn’t on his breakthrough moment, but on his friend Jordan Gill who suffered the first loss of his career, when he was pulled out after eight rounds, following three knockdowns at the hands of Enrique Tinoco, losing his WBA International featherweight strap in the process.
Wood is confident that his close friend will be able to bounce back, having been in the same position himself just over five years ago, when he was defeated by Gavin McDonnell for the British super-bantamweight title.
The 30-year-old told Boxing News: “It’s always hard to come back from that first defeat but it comes down to your attitude and your mindset. When I lost, Jordan was the one person who was there for me. We shared a hotel room in Hull and it was a hard night, as well a long drive back the next day.
“I beat myself up badly after that loss, as I didn’t lose on ability, it was down to getting my preparation wrong and fighting at the wrong weight. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but I rebuilt and came back. I’m 100% sure that Jordan will do exactly the same. He wasn’t himself tonight and I know he wasn’t well, so there’s plenty to learn from and I’m certain he’ll bounce back.
“A loss does knock things off course briefly, but plenty of kids have shown that you can come back from a loss and still do well in this sport. It’s better for the sport in the long run for me, especially as people have bought into the unbeaten record Floyd Mayweather had and what he achieved, so everyone wants to replicate it.
“To be a prospect, you don’t have to be unbeaten as you learn so much, not just about the sport, but about yourself and the people around you when you do lose. A loss isn’t the end of the world. Vasyl Lomachenko lost in his second fight and he’s the best in the world, whilst domestically Jamie McDonnell lost a couple at British title level and he went on to win a couple of world titles. Jordan will be down for a bit, but there’s plenty of examples of fighters bouncing back and I don’t think he’ll be any different to them.”
The pressure was on for Wood in Nottingham, not that he showed it was affecting him any way. It was the first big night of fights at the Arena in seven years, since former super-middleweight king Carl Froch dismantled Yusuf Mack, before his rematch with Mikkel Kessler.
Wood, who has the full backing of Froch, as both are from the same village of Gedling, was punch perfect, as he broke Doyle down, before finishing matters with a stunning left hook to send the home faithful happy, knowing they will not have to wait as long for their next big night.
Wood said of his performance: “I performed how I said I was going to perform. I could nit pick at it, like maybe bringing my power into it a bit earlier, but on the whole it’s a career best performance that I can be proud of. I’ve learned a lot tonight and picked up more experience, so I can start looking towards some bigger fights.
“Ryan Doyle deserves to be at this level. He hasn’t got here by accident. But I showed tonight that I’m going to go past this level. I wouldn’t mind a crack at the British or European next, perhaps an International title even. I did what I promised and now we’re on our way.
“With fighters like Ryan, if you allow them to land a single, big shot in a round it gives them hope. They want to rough you up and take you out of your comfort zone. The plan was to negate that and not allow him to land a single shot throughout the fight, for as long as it lasts and I’m happy that that was what happened.”
Wood is refusing to slow down after his victory and has immediately set his sights on the British title, which has been held by Ryan Walsh since 2015. Walsh currently has his sixth defence scheduled for June 28 against Lewis Paulin, so Wood will have to wait for his chance, which he hopes will come later this year.
The European title, which is currently vacant and will be contested for next month in Bilbao, Spain, is also on his radar but for now “Leigh-thal” will allow himself to look back on his greatest night so far, before he heads back into the fray.
“The fight with Ryan Walsh was meant to happen in December, but he was offered a bit more money to fight Reece Bellotti. I was with a different manager then, so the fight was sort of pulled out from underneath me. He knows I want to fight him and I’ve been asking for it for a while, so whether he wants to hang around for another defence after June is up to him, but I’m up for the fight if he does,” Wood said.
“I know that there’s a European title fight next month, but they’re both beatable, like every around this level and if that is what’s next, I’m more than happy to take that as well.
“It was the best night of my career so far. The edge was perhaps taken off it a bit when Jordan lost, as I was upset for him, but all the Nottingham Forest fans came out for me tonight. They backed all the people who have followed me through the small hall circuit to this point, so I hope they all had a good night and we can come back to the Arena again. And I get to take the belt home again for my little girl on her birthday, so it doesn’t get much better than that.”
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