Wood & Conlan: One Hell Of A Dance

Wood & Conlan: One Hell Of A Dance

In the immediate aftermath of last night’s brutal scintillating fight for the WBA featherweight title, my thoughts drifted back in time. In 1991, at White Hart Lane on a night that changed many things in boxing, Chris Eubank changed the course of a fight and more importantly a life with one single punch. We should have been celebrating a sensational comeback, a fantastic fight, but our hearts and prayers went out to the brave defeated fighter Michael Watson. It was a dark depressing night for boxing.

We witnessed something similar last night in Nottingham. The same narrative we saw all those years ago, but in truth, I am old enough to remember many such nights. Boxing history tells us we should be worried by such sights. It didn’t look good, a fighter so close to winning a world title, knocked through the ropes seconds away from realising his dream, eerily reminiscent of Eubank and Watson. Sadly, we have been here too many times, it never gets easier, but somehow our conscious moves on far too quickly. There is always another big fight just ahead. We never seem to question why we watch a sport that masquerades as entertainment. Should it even be called a sport? But boxing is very much a sport, beautiful in its simplicity but equally a sport that can have devastating life-changing consequences. It can give you so much but often takes away far more. Too many things in boxing are taken for granted.

Despite glimpses of positivity last night that the incredibly talented Michael Conlan was alert and responsive, we dared not think too far ahead. Leigh Wood deserves immense credit not only for his performance but also for his sombre and mooted reaction to his win. He judged the situation better than some.

But thankfully, the good news this morning is that last night’s defeated fighter is awake and doing fine and mercifully now out of hospital. Conlan posted a video in the early hours of Sunday morning confirming that he is OK, and his scans were clear. It might not be a miracle, but it sure felt like one. Many prayers were answered this morning. The bruises of battle were plainly visible but the signs are it is nothing more serious than that. Hopefully, the decision if he fights again or not, is down to him and is not made for him.

Conlan and Wood went to war last night, and make no mistake, war was exactly what it was. Even in victory, Wood will likely pay a heavy price for what he gave us. Both fighters will almost certainly have left a substantial part of their careers in that Nottingham ring. It was a fight that ages both winner and loser. Will either fighter ever be the same again? This observer hopes both fighters take a much-needed extended hiatus from the sport. Neither would be advised to fight again anytime soon. Their bodies will need a long vacation to recover. Trust me, it was that kind of fight.

Wood undoubtedly, and understandably, will want to cash in on his famous and memorable win. If Josh Warrington is a world champion again in two weeks’ time, an end of summer outdoor stadium showdown between Wood and Warrington looks almost too good to walk away from. In time, and if many cards fall into place, the rematch with Conlan will almost certainly be on the menu. It seems an uncomfortable thought now, but time eases many things.

It looked like being one of those horrible nights for boxing, the climax was unsettling, the greatness of the fight forgotten by concern for the vanquished fighter. Many forget the human side of the sport, the sacrifices the fighters make for us, often without the reward and recognition, they fully deserve.

Wood and Conlan emptied their souls last night, they gave more than perhaps they should have. The boxing canvas can paint many a picture, last night we got a masterpiece. A priceless gem of a fight. Almost certainly one of the greatest fights ever to be seen in a British ring. And thankfully, we can all appreciate the fight for what it was. As Wood said himself, the two had one hell of a dance.

Photo Credit: Chris Lloyd

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