In his latest column, boxing’s master of all trades Russ Anber looks ahead to working in the corner for Michael Conlan’s showdown with Leigh Wood this weekend for the WBA featherweight title.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with Mick and his entire team since early in his pro career and this fight is what the kid has been waiting for and working for in his 16 pro fights since. It’s exciting. He’s wanted to fight for a world title ever since he gave the finger to those corrupt Olympic officials back in 2016.
It won’t be an easy fight, of course. Leigh Wood has earned his spot in the top reaches of the featherweight division with that victory against Xu Can, which was a huge win for him. That will have boosted his confidence, but I can assure you of one thing, Mick is not Xu Can.
Mick brings a lot of attributes to the ring. He can fight on the inside, he can fight on the outside, he’s a bigger puncher than he’s given credit for, he has a big heart, great defence and, most importantly, he understands the science of boxing. All of these things give him a great chance in this fight but we are not expecting it to be a walk in the park.
At the press conference on Thursday, Leigh and his trainer Ben Davison seemed very respectful so I think they know that this is a serious fight that will be happening here and I’m sure they have prepared accordingly.
I’m sure it will be a great fight and I’m confident that Mick is going to achieve his dream of winning that world title. Not only for himself, but for his family and, of course, for Ireland!
Mick has been very relaxed this week. In fact he’s been in the best frame of mind I’ve seen from him. Sometimes in the past when he was trying to make 122lbs he was a little bit edgy. It was hard for him to make the weight. I think he’s much happier now at 126lbs. He seems very comfortable and very positive.
Mick has been really good to be around this week since I arrived in the UK. A case in point was at the public work-out when he got me to perform some magic tricks up in the ring. That was completely Mick’s idea. He grabbed the microphone, introduced me and got me up there to do some juggling and stuff.
It was very impromptu, I didn’t get a chance to really think about or plan what I was gonna do. But you know what? It was fun and I’d be more than happy to do it again!
It’s certainly nice to be back at a big fight again after what has been a stop-start few weeks for me. I couldn’t work Artur Beterbiev’s fight in December against Marcus Browne because I had tested positive for Covid. Then I had the double blow of Callum Johnson’s contest with Joe Smith Jr and Liam Smith’s fight against Jessie Vargas both being cancelled. I feel particularly bad for Callum, because now it seems that fight won’t be rearranged so he has missed out on a shot at a world title. It seems like if it wasn’t for bad luck, Callum would have no luck at all. At least Liam’s fight is back on for April in an even better venue, Madison Square Garden.
These past ten days have also changed the world with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Incredibly, just a few weeks earlier we were getting ready to open a branch of Rival Boxing in Russia. I was really proud to say that as a brand we were going into Russia, and now that has all collapsed.
Of course, this issue is secondary to the terrible suffering of the Ukrainian people. It’s heartbreaking to know that people I am very close to are suffering.
It’s an unbelievably horrific situation. I have friends in Ukraine, including Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko, boxers who I work with. It’s a terrible situation for Loma and Usyk, not just in terms of the effect on their careers, but – more important than that – it’s an awful situation for them, their families and their countrymen and women on a personal and on a human level. My thoughts and prayers are with them all.
Russ Anber was talking to Luke G. Williams.