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In this corner with Russ Anber: The inside view on Wood-Conlan

Russ Anber gives his view from the Michael Conlan corner after the Irishman’s dramatic 12th-round defeat against Leigh Wood on Saturday night…

After ten rounds of Mick Conlan’s fight with Leigh Wood, Saturday night was shaping up to be one of my best nights in boxing.

Instead it turned into one of the worst.

From the first round excitement of that stunning and solid knockdown of Wood in round 1 to Mick being cut and bloodied in round two, this fight had every emotion you could possible ask for.

Going into the eleventh round as I watched from the corner, I was confident that we were two rounds away from celebrating a great win, seeing Mick become featherweight champion of the world and celebrating a great fucking night.

And then one punch changed it from being one of my best nights in boxing to one of my worst.

Now look, this is boxing. I know that. It’s a sport where anything can happen. One punch can change everything, as the old cliche goes. I’ve been in this game long enough to know that. Sometimes you’re on the right end of that and sometimes you’re on the receiving end of it, you’re part of the losing crew and it’s a terrible feeling.

And I must say, all credit to Leigh Wood, of course. The kid showed great heart and resilience. Early on I thought he might not make it past the second round but he hung in there like a true champion.

However a couple of things happened on Saturday night that I really wasn’t happy about.

First of all, in the eleventh round the referee made a horrific call when he gave a knockdown against Mick. That was bullshit. It wasn’t a knockdown and it changed the fight. Everyone could see it wasn’t a legitimate knockdown. That decision meant we went from what would have been a 10-9 round to Mick to a 10-8 round for Leigh Wood. A three-point swing for a knockdown that wasn’t a knockdown. That was atrocious. Never mind the fact that it should never have been scored as a 10-8 round.

That decision gave Wood the confidence he needed and it affected Mick because instead of being up by a wide margin going into the last round suddenly he was having to worry about the scorecards because of that three-point swing.

Another thing that upset me was the safety aspect of the fight. It’s clear from the way Mick was knocked out of the ring in the 12th that the ropes were far too loose. There’s no way a fighter should be going through the ropes like that – those ropes offered no support or resistance whatsoever. And we’re talking about a guy in Mick who only weighs 126lbs. It’s not like he’s a middleweight or a heavyweight.

Furthermore, there’s no way a boxing commission anywhere should accept a situation where there’s a high ring that has been put up – three or four feet above the ground – without tables on all four sides around the ring to prevent a fighter from plummeting head first into a cement floor if they get knocked out the ring. That’s simply not right.

Thank God Mick was ok after he fell through the ropes and that his brother Jamie helped break his fall.

With the TV cameras cutting away from what happened after Mick was knocked out I don’t think many people realised how quickly he recovered. Because he was knocked out of the ring there was a lot of panic and chaos in the arena. I’m not sure I liked the way all of that was handled.

Security and the medics seemed to be panicking. Everyone was on top of Mick, there was no space for him to breathe. He was conscious and talking again pretty quickly, he wasn’t unconscious for an extended period. He didn’t collapse or anything. They were trying to give him an oxygen mask and he kept taking it off. He was lucid, he was awake, he was talking to his father, he was talking to the doctor. Had the knockout occurred in the centre of the ring I’m convinced it would have been handled differently.

Of course, the most important thing is that Mick is ok. He went to hospital, had his tests and was out again and back at his hotel a few hours later. Above all else we must be thankful for that.

I also think Mick’s stock has risen despite this defeat. He boxed great. I think he proved he can punch. He hurt Wood on numerous occasions. He showed he can box on the inside, the outside, as a southpaw or as a right hander.

Let’s also remember that before this fight Mick had only had 16 pro fights. He’s going to take a lot of things away from this fight that will make him a better boxer in the future.

Knowing Mick as I do he will bounce back from this. He’s got a champion’s mentality and he will be back.

It’s only March, of course, but already this is the top contender to be fight of the year for 2022. It’s going to take a hell of a fight to top this one. And let’s also face it – if any fight in boxing history calls for a rematch it’s this one.

Russ Anber was talking to Luke G. Williams.

Russ Anber is the founder/CEO of Rival Boxing, as well as a highly respected trainer (of both pros and amateurs), a gym owner, a cut-man, an entrepreneur, a broadcaster and one of the best hand wrappers in the boxing business. Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, Artur Beterbiev, Callum Smith and Michael Conlan are among the many top boxers Russ currently works with.