TUFF On The Road Episode 1 – Leigh Wood
Here’s our first episode of TUFF On The Road, brought to you by our very own boxing promotor Jack Fletcher, interviewing British boxing champion Leigh Wood.

Here’s a transcription of the video for those with hearing loss:

[Jack Fletcher]: Hey, we are in Gedling with British featherweight champion, Mr. Leigh Wood. Leigh, how are you doing?

[Leigh Wood]: Good mate, all good. Bit emotional back here where it all started.

[Jack Fletcher]: I was just gonna say that, back to your roots again, but now you’re the British champion. Just talk to me about how it all began. I mean, the story behind you entering the Phoenix Gym, and sort of getting into boxing in the first place. What inspired you to step through the ropes?

[Leigh Wood]: It was a long time ago. I came down here with my brother and his friends, they were all a bit older than me. We used to do other things we used to go in and climb trees and blah, blah, blah. And one time it was boxing so we all came boxing, and my friend’s mum used to take us, he lived on my road, come down a few times and then my brother didn’t go one day. So I walked up the road, knocked on his door and, his mum came to the door and was like, “You alright?”. I was like “Are we going boxing?” “Oh, he’s not going anymore. He’s doing something else.” I don’t know he was collecting pugs or something, I can’t remember what he was doing. There was always something. And I said, “Oh, alright.” So I turned around and started walking down the path, and she was like “Do you want a lift?”, I was like “Yeah, if you don’t mind”. So then she started taking me for a few months and then, Mark Hardnesson who lived on my street, he started coaching here. So I used to come down with him and yeah, just used to come down a few times a week, Sunday morning, seeing Froch train with at the time, a really good set of lads, like Lee Morris, Ricardo Samms, Jason Yarnett. All of them just grafting in the morning, I was only 10 years old, probably, I was thinking “They’re like animals!”. But yeah, boxing is just one of those things, it just captivates you, and it’s hard, such a hard sport. So when you do something, when you achieve something and do well in a hard sport, it’s a lot more rewarding than the team sports. I think personally.

[Jack Fletcher]: How does it feel to be back here as British champion after all those years, those ups and downs and the rise and fall, and now British champion and looking to move on to sort of bigger things.

[Leigh Wood]: It feels good. Obviously, I don’t want to look back and stand here and look back too much indoor too much, because I’ve still got a lot further to go. But, it’s nice to come back. I’ve got a lot of memories here, just walking in straight away, just triggers all these memories from that side of the gym and the circuits. They’re exactly the same, that padded thing with the silps on is exactly the same colors, and yeah, it’s nice to have a lot of memories here. Obviously my first fights and as 10 years an amateur here. So yeah, so many, many memories and spars. It used to be a bigger ring. I couldn’t even get up. It was up to my chin at the time someone sent me a video of my friends sparring in the day. I think it was Lee Morris and Michael Boyle sparring. If you zoom in, you could see me shadowboxing over there with a string vest on. I must’ve been 10 years old and that’s the earliest video I’ve gotten myself in this gym. So yeah, very special to be back.

[Jack Fletcher]: And another champion, Mr. Karl Froch, he used to train here quite a bit back to his roots as well. How inspirational was Karl Froch on your, sort of, rise to glory?

[Leigh Wood]: Massive. I used to train here on Sunday mornings when Karl was here. I think there was a different night at the time, adults night like senior carded lads, and then beginners come in a bit earlier, I think it was. So you could see him coming in as we was going, but Sunday morning, everyone trained together. So, Sunday morning used to see him train him really hard. And then one Sunday morning, Mike brought me in and Karl had just finished and he said, get his autograph. And I’d seen him for months and months, maybe a year. And, I was thinking, why, what’s, who is he? And he was like, “He’s only just come back from the worlds and he’s won a medal. And Karl was just like, not really used to signing things so he was looking a bit. So then he signed an old club ticket from out the back, I’ve still got it somewhere in my loft. I think that was the first time, like Karl had a bit of success, obviously won the ABAs, first person to win a medal at the worlds. And then, obviously he went on, I went to all of his pro fights, watched him win British Commonwealth, everything else, World Title at the arena. I’ve been to nearly all of his fights, it’s such an inspiration for someone like that on my doorstep from the same village, went to the same school, same amateur club to go and conquer the world. You can’t ask for better inspiration than that closer to home.

[Jack Fletcher]: So we’ve got the, the British title belt here against Reese Mould in February, 9th round knockout. I think I put a bet on for you to finish him in the seventh, I think I actually sent you an Instagram message saying “Knock him out in the seventh.” So yeah, just talk me through that fight. What a great knockout and what an amazing, amazing experience.

[Leigh Wood]: So obviously I’ve always wanted to win the British title since I was very, very young. I think I first held Nicky Booth’s, when I was young, at an awards evening the first year I was here at Phoenix. We had it at the Carlton police station. Nicky brought his belt and I held it, I got a photo of us together. And ever since then, I’ve always wanted to win it. Watched Karl win it and a few others. So yeah, obviously for my career, I had a shot at it before I got beat. This time there’s no way I was getting beat, no way. I had a change of trainer at the time went down to Essex with Ben and I was thinking, what am I doing? I’m eight weeks away from my fights, starting fresh pretty much. But I did rock up down there quite fit and ready. But Ben, what a guy, best move I could have made, got me ready for the fight. Like I said, there’s no doubt, no matter where I was training. And I was going to win that fight regardless, even if like, I had to get carried home, like do you know what I mean, like there’s no way I was losing that fight. But the way Ben trained me and the way we did things, it just made it easy and produced the win that I produced.

[Jack Fletcher]: What differentiates Ben from other boxing trainers, because he is an elite boxing coach with a fantastic reputation, but what’s the difference between a regular boxing coach and someone of Ben Davison’s caliber?

[Leigh Wood]: I think it’s the time, patience and effort he puts in. He’s on the job. So from morning, till night till he sleeps, sometimes he hardly sleeps. He’s messaging me things at night, before I’d go to bed. So I’d spar that day, I’m getting video clips through Lee Wylie, who he works with, and he’ll say “send him this: things he shouldn’t be doing, send him this: things he’s doing well. Things I want to see him do from other fights.” And they will pick up things, say “This, I want you to do this, watch this guy do it. Have you watched it? Okay, watch it again. Have you watched it? Okay. Watch it again. How many times you watch it today, et cetera, et cetera.” And it’s just how on the job he is.  Like, if you can’t, sometimes you think, God, I just want to break like, get of my back. But because he’s that way, there’s no room for error. The drills, thousands of times, there’s snippets of that fight, I can pick up things where Reece Mould normally would tag you in and set up his best shots. And you see me do a little move or movement where I just notified what he’d done and moved back round the ring to take center again, without knowing you wouldn’t know, but I practice that a thousand times in camp because we’ve identified them strengths of his and worked towards them. And that’s what makes him so special, Ben, the effort he puts in, the time and patience he puts into each individual fight. Since I’ve been there, I’ve seen him do it with Lee, seen him do it with Josh, which hasn’t boxed yet. And he’s exactly the same for every fighter.

[Jack Fletcher]: I know there was a lot of emphasis put on power shots in that fight. Did you always know you was going to get Reece out there in the latter stages of the fight? Was that the plan for yourself and Ben from the outset?

[Leigh Wood]: Yeah, I’m not going to say the plan was to go out and knock him out because that’s not really a great plan. But yeah, when I first went to the gym, Ben, he asked me the question, what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? And I said, well, my strengths are my punching power. And I said, my footwork and he went [shakes head] that’s detrimental, he said, your footwork’s detrimental, but yeah, my fitness as well as we identified in the camp. So yeah, the plan was to, in my eyes, I always knew I was going to get him out because everything we worked on, especially when it got close to the fight, I said in a lot of interviews I’m going to get him out, there’s no way he’s going to hear the final bell. But going into the fight, the plan was what I worked on with Ben is  all that all that power I’ve got isn’t landing it, because I spent a lot of my previous fights on the back foot running away, well not running away, but skirting around, making people miss until the timer, then try out my big shots. Whereas this time it was more of setting them shots up, setting traps, landing them big shots. And then I knew when they land, I didn’t think he was going to be able to recover.  I think I was second in line, early on in the fight, the first three rounds, I was just chipping away getting him on the jab, making him, getting him used to different sides and making a miss, seeing his shots, what, what he likes for him, what likes countering off. And then eventually I come back after the third round and I think he put, he spent a lot Reece Mould in the third and I come back to the corner and Ben gave me a bit of a drilling kind of thing because I wasn’t moving and I basically I thought alright, then I’ll put a few in and the fourth round I kinda let my hands go a bit. Then he went down and then Ben in the corners, don’t rush it and keep breaking him out because I knew every time if I keep breaking him down, keep making him miss them shots it’s gonna be so much clearer for me to set up my power shots. And that’s basically what happened. I fainted him onto my right hand, and he rushed in for that body shot and bam, and that was pretty much the end of the fight.

[Jack Fletcher]: So now you’re training at the MTK Performance Centre in Essex, you know, surrounded by some really good lads, Shabaz Maverick Masoud, Josh Taylor, just to name a few. How much value do they add to the party when you train with these guys on a regular basis?

[Leigh Wood]: So much value. And I spent a lot of time over the last few years training on my own. So sometimes I walk up to the gym and doing pads on my own and doing a hard run on my own. Whereas that now in Essex, I’m training along Josh, who’s got two world titles, hopefully soon, touch board, he’s going to have all the belts. Obviously Lee McGreggor European champion, British and Commonwealth before, Shabaz Masoud, Leo D’Erlanger. So we’re not all just training together, but we’re living together as well. So we’re in and out of the same routine all the time. We’re all eating well, we all can do the same things and can’t do the same things. We can’t go out and eat what we want, we can’t have late nights. So yeah, it makes it a lot easier for myself because you’re on a team pushing each other, getting the best out of each other. Someone gets a new scores, a new speed on something on the curve or the circuits. I’m like, oh, you’ve managed to do this many things in 20 minutes. This flat thing we’re doing. Yeah. This is constantly pushing the, pushing the bar, getting more out yourself because we’ve got that competitive environment.

[Jack Fletcher]: In regards to competitive sparring, is it a case of your drafting in boxers from other gyms to fight in sparring sessions? Or do you guys say, take, for example, you spar Josh sometimes, sometime you spar Shabaz? How does that work?

[Leigh Wood]: So we do a lot of technical things together and more drills and that but we don’t know lumps of each other, we do a bit of body sparring between ourselves, but, no we don’t, we don’t whack each other. Sometimes we have to, if we haven’t got any sparring partners and we get let down, but it’s just drills and things like that between ourselves and then we’ll get sparring partners in from other clubs to let our hands go kind of thing.

[Jack Fletcher]: So you’re still managed by Dave Caldwell, still getting trained by Ben Davison. You won the British title in February. I’m sure there’s many boxers that want a shot at that title. They want to take it off your hands and de-throne you, any sort of bad blood on Twitter or Instagram, anyone calling you out at the minute, Leigh?

[Leigh Wood]: No, not really mate. Not that I can think of Louie Lynn said he wanted the fight after his fight. I said, basically get your management to ring Caldwell that’s a fight we could make straight away. We’ve not heard nothing. Look, anyone who wants a show at it, I know what it’s like sitting around, waiting for fights. When I was at The Ingles, you know, I was waiting for British title and kept getting promises, nothing happening. I got open hands like, anyone wants a shot, get in touch. You can, you can have your shot kind of thing. I’d love to win that British title outright, but it’s gonna have to be fast. I’m not a spring chicken, so I’ve got to get cracking. I’ve got to get them in, I would like to defend it before the end of the year or early next year, if I am defending it. But like I said, it’s opened up a lot of doors, could be Eurpoean title next, could be pushing for World title. So who knows what’s next? But, I won’t be vacating in it until I’ve got some things set in stone or I win another belt for sure.

[Jack Fletcher]: What’s the blueprint for the remainder of the year then? Is there any updates on when you’ll be fighting next at all?

[Leigh Wood]: We’re aiming for July. A lot of the shows are up in the air at the minute, you’ve got promoters putting all kinds of strings and movements and channels swapping about. As you may know, if you’ve seen the rumors about Match Room and Sauerland taking things over. So we’re just going to sit around and wait – well not sit around and wait, but we’ve got things in the making, but we’re just going to wait to see how things pan out, and we’re aiming for July to be back out.

[Jack Fletcher]: I know that you had a topsy-turvy year in 2020, the golden contract, lost out to Jazza Dickins, but you’ve come a long way since that point you know, you’re a better all round boxer now got good coaching staff, good team. Would Jazza Dickins be in your sights for a future fight? I’m sure you’d want to avenge that loss.

[Leigh Wood]: Yeah, I’m gonna have to put that right. You’re never gonna get an easy night with Jazza, especially when you’re not on it and you could see from my performance, I wasn’t on it. I’m not firing. And I lost on a split and boxed terrible. So it’s a fight I’d love to put right. Same with Gavin McDonnell as well. Like I don’t feel like I need that fight but it would be nice to put the record straight, clean that up off my record. He’s fighting for the European title again soon, most more than likely just got the draw for it, so if they have a rematch, but it’s all about time, that, because it could take months and months and months. So we’ll see where we’re at. Like I said, I’d love to win that fight, but if I ain’t got time and don’t make sense then it don’t, but we’ll see what happens.

[Jack Fletcher]: But if there was an opportunity to fight McDonnell, you’d want to get in there and fight him and win that European title.

[Leigh Wood]: Yeah. I mean, if we’d have won at the weekend, we could have made that fight for the British and European. It would’ve bene a massive rematch and be a big fight, but now the clash of heads and it’s, they’re rematching first. It’s going to take time. So I dunno, you can’t rule it out, but we’ll see.

[Jack Fletcher]: So hypothetically, that fight did go ahead. This time around what happens?

[Leigh Wood]: What do you think? What do you think happens?

[Jack Fletcher]: I have to remain impartial.

[Leigh Wood]: Gavin Mac’s a good fighter, he’s boxed for world titles. I do believe he’ll win that European in the rematch and be a two-weight World European champion. But I was at the wrong weight when I fought him the first time. Normally I wouldn’t use that as an excuse, but I will put the record straight 100%. He’s a very fit, fit fighter and is very experienced, but I do believe I’d get him out.

[Jack Fletcher]: I mean what a way to start 2021 British champion and got an exciting remainder of the year ahead. You must be absolutely overjoyed to have won this belt. How did it feel when you got it wrapped around your waist for the very first time on that night?

[Leigh Wood]: Yeah. When I first, when I first got the stoppage, it’s weird, but immediately I felt so bad for Reese because I’ve been there myself. I was unbeaten back in 2014. I know what it feels like, you’ve had your insides ripped out of you. I knew what it felt like. And of course it was – I’d come with some big shots. So like, obviously first of all I didn’t celebrate because I was thinking I hope he’s alright, because I did land four or five, maybe six clean shots. So first of all, hope he’s alright. And then once I’d seen he was alright, then I thought I remember being there, it’s not nice. And then I was kinda thinking, right, sort your head out. You just won, you wanted to win this since you was 11 years old, you’ve got it in your hands. You know, like, and I thought, you know, what kind of sunk in, I was like, where’s the crowd? So it was like one thing to another, like where’s my fans? Where’s my family? Where’s all the people who’ve been there, like from Clifton Leisure Centre? I’m like, there’s no crowd, you know? But yeah, like it’s one of them all this time, it’s still to win it and then I’ve won it, and there’s no one there. But no, I’m sure we’ll get a defense or some bigger tiles and the fans to be there, everyone seeing it then. But yeah, it was a special – still a special night. And it’s one that will probably be the best night of my career up to this day.

[Jack Fletcher]: I know Reece Mould’s just coming up, quite a young fighter as well. I know there was a little bit of a needle before the fight, a little bit of bad blood in the bubble. What was the conversations like after the fight?

[Leigh Wood]: It wasn’t so much bad blood. I think he took it – he might’ve taken it the wrong way, because everything I said, I truly believed everything. Every single thing I said, I truly believe, and every single thing I said, I went out and did. I knew we were gonna go the distance, IFL pushed me for a prediction on, I said, round nine or ten. But just because of the fact that most of my stuff has been in them, just the early start of them Championship rounds. So everything I did say I went out and did. He reacted off what I said, so when he heard that I’d said, oh he won’t hear the final bell. He probably took it as oh he’s being disrespectful and just shouting his mouth. But I’m just that confident in my ability and his inexperience. That’s why I said it. So then obviously he heard that and he said, it’s going to be an early night for me. And I think you’ll just say it in retaliation. So, not so much bad blood. But you know, sometimes it’s good to build a fight because the more views you get the better for our profiles, but everything truly everything I said was hand on heart what I believe was going to happen, so.

[Jack Fletcher]: I can always remember the first Leigh Wood fight that I went to was at Clifton Leisure Centre. And you walked out to Jake Bugg’s Lightning Bolt, wearing a cowboy hat. You’ve come a long way since that moment, Leigh.

[Leigh Wood]: Yeah. I always try to involve this city or fly the flag, you can say, for the city. So back then it was the Sheriff of Nottingham, I just wanted to do something different. Now it’s a Robin Hood theme at the minute. I think that might stick because I just think like the rich, Nottingham green of like Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest and things that sells all over the world everywhere. I’ve been to Mexico and people say, “Where are you from?” I say Nottingham, and they say “Not heard of it”. And I say, Robin Hood. “Oh yeah. Robin Hood”. So things associate cities with major events, major things, folklore and stuff. So yeah, I think that traditional green for me on a kit kind of gives me a bit of identity. So the Robin Hood thing and kind of tied it in with my boxing and then try and fly the flag for this city.

[Jack Fletcher]: I know Clinton was mentioned to me off of set that your still very much involved with the amateur scene or you come to a lot of the local shows for Phoenix as well. The grassroots of boxing is very important to you, Leigh.

[Leigh Wood]: I tried to get to Clinton shows at the liberal club, obviously with COVID and that we’ve not had some for a while, but I’m sure when he’s allowed he’ll be back there and I would love to come down again, I enjoy it. I enjoy watching the transformation of the younger generation coming through. You see them as juniors and you see them as seniors, and then you start to think, oh, I might, I think he might do all right. And some of the ones, sometimes you pick the one you think, oh, he’s going to do good. And then they kind of fade off the ones that wasn’t so good kind of takeover and come through. So it is good to watch the kids progress and make the transition into senior. Then hopefully a professional fight and then watch the journey and be a part of it.

[Jack Fletcher]: Would you like to be, where can you see yourself 12 months down the line in May 2022?

[Leigh Wood]: Right. So in a year, just under a year, I would like to have either won this outright, so my kids can trash it. No I’d like to win this outright so I can pass it down to my grandkids and have it in the family. You know, it’s something that, I think when you, win a British title outright, it does make you more of a household name. Well, not so much household anymore, but it does cement your name in boxing a bit more. Froch, Brooke, you know, just to name a few that I’ve been a part of to kind of boost their profile and you kind of solidifies your at that level. But even though like every domestic fight I’ve been in, I’ve won by a knockout, Commonwealth, Commonwealth defense, double European, British title they’ve all been knockouts. But I think until you win one outright and you beat who the board says you have to beat, then you – that’s pretty much you’ve ticked that box. You’ve, cleared up at that level. So I would like to do that by next year, if I can, if that route doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, there may be a World title shot on the horizon. So I’d be getting in line for one or fight for one by May, all being well I’ll win one. So that’s where I’d like to be next year. Obviously there could be other routes, but them two, either of them two would be the best ones for me.

[Jack Fletcher]: And what’s the dream for you? What’s the final end goal for you? What’s the pinnacle of your career before you wrap up, Leigh?

[Leigh Wood]: So I said a few months ago that there’s three things I want to achieve in my career. Not in any order, obviously, but in the order, this order, which is starting to fall into place bit by bit was win the British title. So that one’s ticked. The second one would probably tie in with the third one that’s box for World title, because Brendan Ingle used to say to me all the time, if you don’t box a world title, it’ll be a travesty. He said, you’ll win British, Commonwealth, European and hope to God I see it, you’ll win a world title. Obviously he’s not here anymore. So I need to go out and fight for that world title. Hopefully win one, you know, and obviously the third thing is fight at the Forest ground, I’d be the first person to headline at the city ground, and it gives me goosebumps thinking about it. But it would be a massive, a massive show. I’d love to be the first person to do that. Froch obsiouly did a lot for the city, he went and won numerous world titles. I don’t know if you know, but he boxed in front of 80,000 people.

[Jack Fletcher]: Oh really? I didn’t know that.

[Leigh Wood]: But to give myself as a fighter my own identity with the city as well, the first person to do that, would be incredible. And, I think it’s going to happen, I think I can do it. And then to the World title, and that will probably tie in together or at least a final eliminator or something along them lines. So yeah, that’s what I want to achieve in my career, and hopefully it will happen.

[Jack Fletcher]: I think it’s fair to say that now you’ve secured the British title at the time and age that you are, you’ve made it a distinct possibility now, like, would you say?

[Leigh Wood]: Yeah, like I said, when I won that British title on the night it opened so many doors, especially because I’d won other belts as well, but now the British is the main one that gives you, a lot of clat, they say, the British title. So yeah, it opens up a lot of doors. I’ve got a lot of possibilities. Sometimes people jump from British titles to World titles or eliminators and World titles. So it opens a lot of doors, it gives you a good ranking I think. I’m top 13 in the world or top 12 in the world or something like that. So yeah, I’m on a lot of world champions’ radar now, I’m in contention, just organizations that are different, but you’re only a fight away from getting a shot at getting in their top five. So we’ll see what happens. Like I said, I’d love to win that outright but if not, we can go chase a World title, I’m not gonna moan.

[Jack Fletcher]: Do we need to be keeping our eyes peeled for a fight date? Is there going to be some type of announcement in the not too distant future?

[Leigh Wood]: Yeah, definitely. I think we’ll be announcing something in May aound May time, end of May.

[Jack Fletcher]: Watch this space?

[Leigh Wood]: Watch this space.

[Jack Fletcher]: Good stuff. Leigh, it’s been absolutely fantastic talking to you today. Thanks for coming on to TUFF Boxing TV On The Road.

[Leigh Wood]: Always a pleasure.

[Jack Fletcher]: We’ll talk to you again soon.

[Leigh Wood]: Thanks, mate.

[Jack Fletcher]: Cheers.

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