Michael Conlan called for a rematch with Leigh Wood from his hospital bed a few hours after their unforgettable fight.
As Conlan prepares for his return to the ring Saturday night from his 12th-round knockout loss to Wood, the Belfast native is resigned to not getting that second shot at Wood anytime soon, perhaps ever. Conlan acknowledged during an interview with BoxingScene.com that Wood wants “bigger fights” after defeating Conlan in an instant classic March 12 at Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, England, Wood’s hometown.
“He doesn’t want the rematch, not yet anyway,” said Conlan, who will box Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga on Saturday night at The SSE Arena Belfast. “According to him, he wants bigger fights and bigger stuff. But I think the rematch for him is probably the biggest fight out there. I know he’s chasing Leo Santa Cruz and trying to get that fight. But I highly doubt it still happens, man, and I worry when it happens because I don’t want [Wood] to lose. I want him to keep winning.”
While Wood won their fight for the brave Brit’s WBA world featherweight title, Conlan believes Wood absorbed much more damage during their 11½ rounds of back-and-forth action than he sustained. Conlan knocked Wood to the canvas in the first round, whereas Wood came back and dropped Conlan in the 11th round.
Nevertheless, Wood won’t be the same fighter, according to Conlan, against whoever he faces next.
A purse bid for the bout between Wood (26-2, 16 KOs) and Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19 KOs), the WBA’s “super” champion in the featherweight division, is scheduled for August 12. Eddie Hearn, Wood’s promoter, stated Thursday, however, that Wood could make an optional defense of his WBA belt against rugged Mexican Mauricio Lara (24-2-1, 17 KOs) on September 24 at Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.
Regardless, Conlan expects to see a different Wood than the man who entered the ring to fight him almost five months ago.
“I think that after a fight like that, how much damage he took in that fight, I don’t think he’ll be the same fighter,” said Conlan, who led Wood on all three scorecards entering the 12th round. “He took 10 times more damage than I did, so I think he could be a shell of himself when he goes again. I think Leo Santa Cruz may beat him. I hope not, but, you know, I think if they do, he would [beat Wood]. And even if he won that fight, I couldn’t see him facing me next. I think he’ll wanna go for a unification [fight]. But I know that Matchroom [Wood’s promoter] had reached out to Top Rank [Conlan’s promoter] about getting it done and doing it in the winter. But with his current situation, how things are going, it seems unlikely.”
The bout between Conlan (16-1, 8 KOs), who is consistently listed as at least a 12-1 favorite, and Marriaga (30-5, 26 KOs) will headline an ESPN+ stream scheduled to start at 2 p.m. ET in the United States. Conlan-Marriaga will be the main event of a Fite.tv stream in the United Kingdom and Ireland (8 p.m. BST; £6.50).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.