LEIGH WOOD pulled off an astonishing comeback to stop Michael Conlan in the 12th and last round at the Nottingham Arena on Saturday night.
Conlan had dominated the fight. In the first round after switching southpaw the Belfast fighter had thumped his back hand left to the body before smashing it over the top to floor Wood just before the bell. Wood was badly shaken and Conlan continued to control proceedings, that dangerous left streaking into his rival’s chin.
Conlan jabbed well too and chopped shots into the body to drain Wood reserves of energy. Even when Wood had his moments, Michael either tied him up with smart clinching or swayed clear and often blocked the incoming punches. An exciting clash, with a gutsy Wood hanging in there, Conlan appeared to be well ahead as the contest entered its last two rounds.
Yet Wood not only stayed in the fight, he stayed determined. He pressed forward in the 11th round and he forced his way in. As he slung at Michael with his left, Conlan lost his footing. Referee Steve Gray took up the count, even as Conlan insisted it was slip.
Going into the last round, to this reporter at least, Conlan looked all but assured of victory. But all of sudden as Wood pressed an assault with Conlan on the ropes, he caught the Belfast man heavily with a right. Conlan wilted and Wood’s attack knocked him through the ropes. He fell out of the ring and tumbled down. The fight had to be stopped at once. Conlan was clearly badly hurt and needed treatment. Medical staff took him to hospital afterwards. He was reportedly conscious and stable when he arrived.
It was an astonishing comeback for Leigh Wood, but with Conlan being treated his celebrations were muted.
“It was a bad knockout so I just want to see if he’s alright,” Wood said.
It was a frightening finish to an extraordinary fight.