IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston seeks the betting value in tonight’s WBA Regular featherweight title fight between Chinese champion Xu Can and Nottingham’s Leigh Wood.

China’s Xu Can calls himself “The Monster”, and while he isn’t considered a seriously hard puncher he’s relentless and throws a high volume of punches. He’s favoured at 1/4 (-400) to defeat British challenger Leigh Wood in their WBA featherweight title bout on  Matchroom’s Fight Camp show in Brentwood this evening. 

Yet while Xu deserves to be the favourite, Wood is the puncher in the fight and looks a live underdog. Wood is priced 3/1 (+300) at Betfred if you fancy his chances.

While Xu is favoured to win, he’s not unbeatable. Wood can box a bit as well as bang, but his best chance, it would be seem, is to hurt Xu and take him out of the fight. If Wood waits too long he will likely be outworked. 

The good thing from Wood’s perspective is that Xu is willing to take the fight to the other man. This means that Wood almost certainly won’t have to go looking for the champion. The potential is there for a high-contact type of fight.

Betfred offers Wood by KO TKO DQ at 7/1 (+700). That really is a good price if you are of the opinion that Wood’s only way to win is by stopping Xu and you think he can pull it off.

Meanwhile, if you feel that Xu’s workrate and world title experience will tip the balance in a full-distance contest, you can get the champion to win by decision at 5/4 (+125). 

Xu to win by KO TKO DQ  is offered at 6/4 (+150) and this seems the least likely result. But is it?  Wood had a shaky spell against Jazza Dickens, who isn’t known for serious punching power, while Reece Mould, unbeaten at the time but a domestic level fighter, seemed to buzz Wood with a left hook in the third round. 

So there just seems a hint of vulnerability about Wood, although I will cut him some slack for the stoppage defeat against Gavin McDonnell. That was seven years ago and Wood was likely tight at the weight. The fight was at 122lbs and Wood moved up to 126 immediately after the contest.

A Xu stoppage victory is not completely out of the question. He’s insistent and could wear Wood down — and Xu actually lived up to that “Monster” tag when he overwhelmed Japanese southpaw Shun Kubo on his opponent’s home ground. He didn’t look a powder-puff puncher in that fight.

Xu trains in Miami under the direction of well-regarded Cuban trainer Pedro Diaz while Wood is now training under the direction of Ben Davison, who believes his man is punching harder than at any time in his career.

I would think that the Wood plan will be to let Xu come to him and either try to catch him with heavy blows before the champion gets into any sort of rhythm or perhaps seek to punch right with him, relying on superior firepower to trump Xu’s high output.

I’m seeing something of a high-contact fight here. And while Wood has the superior firepower, if he can’t end this early he could find himself under increasing pressure by the later stages.

The thing with Xu is that he seems to have limitless reserves of stamina. I know that’s not physically possible, but it just seems that way. 

In his last fight, which was almost two years ago, Xu outclassed unbeaten prospect Manny Robles Jr in the California desert in Indio. Xu seemed to be having fun and he looked almost tireless. I thought I noticed improvement in Xu’s boxing ability that night. He cleverly changed the angles of his attack instead of constantly marching straight ahead. Xu is 27 and it seems to me he has grown as a fighter since hooking up with trainer Diaz. 

Wood, however, is getting the opportunity of a lifetime here and he will be giving it all he’s got. 

It wouldn’t shock me if Wood rose to the occasion, but I have to go with Xu to win. However, I don’t want to lay the price on Xu, so I’m looking at the proposition market. 

Some shops offer either man to win in rounds 7-12 at 12/5 (+240). That’s an interesting line. But I’d rather keep it simple with a play on the fight not going the distance at basically even money

I feel that at some point in the bout we will see these fighters head to head and looking to hurt each other, and in this sort of scenario it’s touch-and-go whether a fight makes it to the final bell.

Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.