Although the announcement that Can Xu would defend his world featherweight title against Leigh Wood on week one of Fight Camp came as a shock to some, it’s a fight that Dave Coldwell has long been hopeful for following a text conversation with senior figures at Golden Boy earlier this year.
The pair clash at Matchroom HQ on Saturday night, a fight being shown exclusively live on DAZN, and it is Wood’s maiden opportunity to demonstrate that he belongs at world level. Consistently touted by Coldwell, the Sheffield multi-tasker, the manager of Wood, identified Xu as a realistic target when aiming to propel his charge.
“Getting the call off Eddie Hearn to say the fight was done was a nice surprise,” revealed Coldwell when speaking to DAZN. “I get on really well with Robert Diaz and around April time I mentioned the possibility of him keeping Leigh Wood’s name in mind if there was ever the chance of him looking to get Can Xu a fight.
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“A few months later, Golden Boy want to get Xu out before August and they reach out to Matchroom to make a fight. That’s how the opportunity came about for Leigh and now has the chance to change his career, and his life, for the better.”
With Wood conceding a fraction of world level experience to his imminent opponent, he begins Saturday’s fight as a significant underdog. A frequent attraction in domestic classics against the likes of Jazza Dickens, Gavin McDonnell and Ryan Doyle, Wood has often acquitted himself well when proving himself against his fellow countrymen. Despite the odds, Coldwell doesn’t believe the step up is as big as what people are forecasting.
“It’s a jump for Leigh but it’s not a major jump. What’s on Can Xu’s record that should really frighten him? Manny Robles? He’s a good fighter with a lot of ability and desire but I think Leigh can definitely make his mark if he does things right. Xu has been out the ring for nearly two years and this is first time in the U.K. so Leigh has got a few things going in his favor.
“Also, you won’t believe the work that Leigh is doing in the gym. You’ve heard me go on about his power for a while now but he’s learning how to get the most from that now. He’s setting things up and forcing mistakes so he can get that power into play. Xu is a massive volume puncher but the thing about fighters like that is that they give you a chance. If Leigh gets the chance, then he has to take it.”
Victory for Wood will see him elevated into the upper echelons of the featherweight division with a host of attractive propositions awaiting him. With world glory just one fight away, Coldwell is refusing to even discuss potential plans for his fighter if he does upset the odds this weekend.
“I’m not one to get carried away as there’s a big job to do on Saturday night. If Leigh can do it then things are about to change for him in a big way. There’s many, many options out there for him if he can become world champion but those don’t come if he can’t beat Xu. That has to be the focus but we can only have a look if he gets the job done.”