No one should blame Leigh Wood for seeking out a match after what he had to endure in his latest win.
The chance of settling for anything less than an A-list opponent next time out, however, are as slim as Wood backing down from a challenge.
“I want a big dog. I want to take the biggest scalp,” Wood told Probellum host Jim Kelly while on site to take in back-to-back shows in Dubai over the weekend. “I want the winner of Kiko Martinez and Josh Warrington. I want Leo Santa Cruz. I want one of these scalps. Someone that’s in the top five.”
Leigh Wood (26-2, 16KOs) claimed an improbable 12th round knockout win over two-time Olympian and unbeaten challenger Michael Conlan in the leading contender for 2022 Fight and Knockout of the Year. The 33-year-old secondary WBA featherweight titlist recovered from an opening round knockdown and rallied from a scorecard deficit to twice drop Conlan and knock him out of the ring with just 1:25 to go in their epic thriller on March 12 in his hometown of Nottingham, England.
The unforgettable slugfest marked Wood’s first defense of the title he claimed in a more lopsided 12th round knockout of China’s Can Xu last July in Brentwood, Essex. That win came with the understanding one week later that the next fight would be with Conlan.
The latest win came with the expectation of next facing Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19KOs), the WBA ‘Super’ featherweight titlist who is supposed to be ordered to face Wood in a title consolidation bout. That’s if the four-division titlist from Southern California by way of Mexico opts to return to the featherweight division, where he hasn’t fought in more than three years.
Should Santa Cruz decline the offer, Wood will be the lone recognized WBA featherweight titlist which would allow him to pursue title unification bouts. That leaves the Brit as an interested observer for this weekend’s rematch between IBF featherweight champ Kiko Martinez (43-10-2, 30KOs) and former titlist Josh Warrington (30-1-1, 7KOs).
“I want to get put into a fight where I’m going to get the credit as a world champion,” Wood insists.