Leigh Wood can envision a scenario where both he and Michael Conlan are featherweight titlists by the end of Saturday night.
The pair of former rivals fight in separate title fights, though the situation is more absolute for Conlan who faces IBF featherweight titlist Luis Alberto Lopez (27-2, 15KOs) in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The two-time Olympian and 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist is a narrow -125 favorite according to bet365 sportsbook to wrest the crown from Mexicali’s Lopez, who enters his first title defense at even money.
Those odds are directly in line with how many—including Wood—see the action unfolding in the ESPN+/BT Sport headliner.
“I slightly lean towards Conlan,” Wood told BoxingScene.com. “I do believe he can pull this off. If anything, I do believe that Conlan is a harder style for Lopez than Lopez is for Michael.”
The fight will air at an earlier than normal start time for a UK main event, which will avoid conflict with Wood’s currently scheduled rematch versus Mauricio Lara. Their WBA featherweight title fight is still on course to take place as this goes to publication, though with the belt only at stake for Wood (26-3, 16KOs) atop their DAZN main event from AO Arena in Manchester, England.
Mexico City’s Lara (26-2-1, 19KOs) was so far over the limit during a fight week weight check that the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) forbade him native from cutting the amount of weight necessary to make featherweight. Lara was 129.8 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in, above the minimum 128 ½-pound limit he could safely weigh, though just light enough to where Wood—who was 125.9 pounds—was still enticed to proceed with plans to avenge a seventh-round knockout defeat just 13 weeks ago in his Nottingham hometown.
The fight was his first since his thriller with Conlan (18-1, 9KOs) in their 2022 Fight of the Year last March 12 in Nottingham. Wood was down in the opening round and trailed on all three cards before he rallied to drop Conlan late in round eleven and then out of the ring to end the fight with 95 seconds to go in their instant classic.
Conlan came up short in his bid to claim Wood’s WBA featherweight title that night, but is favored—if ever so slightly—to come up aces on his second try.
“Skillful, skillful fighter that Michael Conlan is,” acknowledged Wood. “I do lean towards Michael, I think he will be just a little bit too crafty for him.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox