Leigh Wood makes Michael Conlan world title vow and the power of Nottingham Forest is behind him

Since punching a hole through the defences of the fearsome Can Xu last summer, Leigh Wood has enjoyed some significant perks that come attached to being a world champion.

There have been the sponsorship deals, there has been punditry work and there have also been private jets with Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn to press conferences.

And yet it is not just the humble featherweight from Gedling who has benefited from what has been a remarkable ascension to the global stage.

“Sometimes my mates will try to book a late table at a restaurant and they can’t get one so they will drop me a message,” he laughs.

“I’ve been able to get them in so that’s one advantage. You get a bit of clout don’t you in that respect. But it’s only been in Nottingham so far. I’ve not been able to do it global yet.

“I’ll help them, but I keep my feet on the ground. I have not changed from my early days and I am still the same person with the same morals.

“I am who I am. No amount of money in the world will ever change me. The only thing that has changed is that I am being recognised a lot more.”

Should he win his world-title showdown against the sharp-mouthed and fast-punching Michael Conlan on Saturday night, Wood can expect more restaurants to keep their tables free.

The much-anticipated battle has sold out the Motorpoint Arena 10 years after Carl Froch basked in the glory of a career-defining battering of Lucian Bute.

That night put Froch on a pathway to the biggest fight of his career when 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium watched him destroy George Groves for the second time in what was a landmark occasion for British boxing.

Should Wood defend his WBA crown, similar riches lay in wait with the carrot of a world title fight at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground dangling in front of him.

It has always been the dream to throw leather under the lights of the football club he supports and it is a chance that he is determined not to throw away.

“This is fairy-tale sh*t,” he says.

“Honestly, of all the arenas for Carl I was there in the seats screaming, but I’m now headlining in the same arena. This isn’t the peak or where I stop,

“I’m going to go further than this. The City Ground fight has been dangled in front of me for so long. Eddie Hearn said after this fight it’s happening, so I’ll hold him to that.

“But my eyes are on Saturday night first.

“I’m coming to get the job done and look good doing it.”

Wood’s elevation to the world stage and sold out arenas has been a long and arduous journey that started in small-hall shows when punches would echo in leisure centres across the country.

British titles and Commonwealth belts were eventually strapped around his waist which led him to face Can Xu last July in a fight that not many in boxing circles gave him a chance of winning.

But a spectacular dismantling dethroned the “Monster” courtesy of vicious power that has made the rest of the featherweight division sit up and take notice.

His accomplished performance secured him a showdown with Conlan and the money he will earn will allow him to secure the future of himself and his family.

Boxing is littered with stories of fighters who see the pound signs which distracts their focus, but Wood joked that he has not even bought himself a new car.

There are, he says, plans to move into property investment but knows that overcoming Conlan will lead him to an even greater path of riches.

But Conlan, who has a stellar amateur background, has vowed to derail those ambitions although he is stepping into hostile territory.

Around 2,000 Irish fans will be in a crowd of nearly 10,000 many of whom are Forest supporters who can expect to hear the club’s anthem, the Mull of Kintyre, during Wood’s ring walk.

There have been lively exchanges between the pair during the build-up with Conlan’s sharp tongue creating plenty of headlines.

He is undefeated in 16 fights with eight of those victories coming by stoppage, but Wood undoubtedly carries the greater power having record 15 knockouts in 25 wins against some high-quality opponents.

“I see straight through what he says,” insists Wood.

“He says he is coming to take the belt off me and that he is ready. Good because I want the best Michael Conlan there is.

“I don’t want there to be any excuses from him when I beat him.

“But I sense that he is trying to have this mentality that he is the underdog.

“Be it over 12 rounds or via knockout, I am going to get the job done. It’s going to be an incredible atmosphere. I’ll have my fans behind me, Forest fans and they will be so loud.

“That doesn’t bring extra pressure or add any nerves.

“People doubted me when I fought Can Xu and look what happened there. I will thrive off that and you will all see that this is just the beginning of my journey, not the end of it.”