LEIGH WOOD will be hoping to put his frustrations behind him and kickstart his career once again, as he aims to win the Commonwealth featherweight title at the East of England Arena in Peterborough against Ghanaian Abraham Osei Bonsu on Sky Sports.
“Leigh-thal”, now 30 has recently joined forces with new manager Dave Coldwell, who has immediately delivered the Nottingham man a title fight following the decision of his close friend Jordan Gill, who beat Ryan Doyle for the belt back in October, to vacate the title.
Wood has also moved away from his long-time base at the Ingle Gym in Wincobank, Sheffield. He told Boxing News: “This has been a long time coming for me and I’m so excited for Saturday. I’ve had years of bad luck and more recently some issues with management, which caused me to become disheartened and lose my love for boxing, but I’m over that and ready to go.
“I’m with Dave now, management wise anyway and he has delivered for me. I wanted to go straight into a big fight as I’m 30 and haven’t got time to have a warm-up fight. There’s no need for it and on Saturday, I’ll show that there is no ring rust either when I leave with that belt.
“Bonsu will be tough, as all the African fighters are. He’ll come forward, swinging recklessly, but he’ll be able to maintain that pace throughout. He’ll also probably stick his head in and catch me after the bell, so I’ll need to stick to my boxing. I believe I’m a big puncher at featherweight, despite what my record suggests, but I can’t load up as that will set me up for an even tougher night. Saturday is my chance and I can’t let it pass me by.”
The former Midlands Area champion, trained by Ian Grant, admits he considered walking away from the sport, as he remained hidden away on undercards, despite building a record of 20-1 and winning eliminators for British titles.
“When Jordan initially joined Dave I was sceptical at first, but it’s done wonders for him. Jordan spoke to Dave about managing me and it just made total sense. In fact I was more nervous about leaving the Ingle Gym as I was there for 10 years or so, right from when I was an amateur and it was a big change,” he said.
“I’m still with Ian, who is my trainer, who was with me at the Ingles’ for four or five years, as well as cornering me in at least six or seven of my fights so it hasn’t changed too much. It was hard to keep going at times, especially as I’m so confident in my ability and proved it time and time again in the gym.
“I also had my injuries, like I ruptured my bicep tendon after fighting Gavin McDonnell, but more often than not I was just waiting in the gym. I beat Josh Wale and then Lee Glover for the Midlands, so I was ready and nothing came. Then I injured my shoulder so I was out again.”
Wood admits he has had to do a lot of learning on the job and points to his loss to McDonnell back in 2014, as well as the victory over Wale as moments which helped him grow as a fighter.
McDonnell got the better of him, stopping him in the sixth round in Hull for the then vacant British super-bantamweight crown, whilst the victory over Wale looks excellent now, after the Barnsley man won and defended the British bantamweight crown before losing a controversial decision for the European title.
“Looking back at my past performances, the main thing I’ve learned is about pacing myself and making the weight properly. The McDonnell fight is a perfect example, as I made the weight but didn’t do it properly. Even after the second round I remember going back to the corner and telling Dominic that I felt flat,” he said. “He told me I was fine, but I remember feeling like I was in the 10th round when I was only in the fourth. I could barely hold my hands up and my energy was sapped. It upset me a lot and took a long time to get over, but the Wale fight was perfect for me.
“I got it right, although I’d still never gone past six successfully by this point, so I was again learning on the job. I always believed in my ability and this shows what I can do. What Josh has done subsequently is brilliant and his manager has got him places and chances that I wish I could have got.
“But, like I said, Dave has delivered and I can’t wait for Saturday, when I win the Commonwealth title. I’m fully focused on getting the win and I’m ready for a big 2019 with plenty more opportunities like this.”