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Leigh Wood wants Jazza Dickens or Emanuel Navarrete next

Image: Leigh Wood wants Jazza Dickens or Emanuel Navarrete next

By Charles Brun: Leigh Wood (25-2, 15 KOs) is targeting a rematch with his former conqueror Jazz Dickens next or a unification fight with WBO featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete after dethroning WBA ‘regular’ 126-lb champ Xu Can (18-3, 3 KOs) in a 12th round knockout victory last Saturday night at the Matchroom Fight Camp in Brentwood, Essex.

Dickens is a winnable fight for Wood, and it’s easily understandable why he’s interested in fighting him. However, WBO featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete (33-1, 28 KOs) isn’t a fight that Wood can win, even if he chooses to use an illegal stiff-arm the entire fight.

Navarrete is just way too good for Wood in Charles Brun’s view, which is why he’s likely to stay far, far away from the Mexican talent.

Navarrete would be an absolute haunting nightmare for Wood, and there’s nothing his trainer Ben Davison could come up with that would result in him winning.

Holding, using illegal stiff arms, and constant shouldering of Navarrete wouldn’t result in Wood beating him. It might get Wood disqualified, but it wouldn’t get him a victory.

Image: Leigh Wood wants Jazza Dickens or Emanuel Navarrete next

Leigh Wood’s use of illegal stiff arm against Xu Can

Wood got away with murder last Saturday night using the illegal stiff-arm the entire fight with Xu Can without being penalized and disqualified for it.

Frankly, it was appalling that Wood could use the stiff-arm throughout the fight without being penalized.

This writer can’t remember ever seeing a fighter use the stiff tactic the way Wood did without being warned and penalized for it, yet he used the entire fight with Xu.

There are no words. How does a referee allow a fighter to use stiff arms for the entire 12 round fight without stepping in and penalizing them?

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You can’t overemphasize how important that tactic was for Wood because he basically prevented Xu Can from getting in close to land his shots by holding his left hand far in front of him to use it as a stick.

It’ll be interesting to see if Wood can use his stiff-arm tactics in the rematch with Xu Can, and I believe there will be a rematch. If your Xu’s team, you’re going to make sure the referee is well-versed on the rules of boxing and understands that using a stiff-arm is not allowed.

Fighters are NOT supposed to hold their lead arm in front of them and use it as a stick to push their opponents away. Sadly, that’s what we saw from Leigh Wood last night against Xu Can, as the referee was stood around watching without addressing the illegal tactic.

Wood also got away with shouldering Xu Can throughout the contest, particularly in the later rounds when he tried to get him to back off. Instead of fighting Xu on the inside, Wood frequently resorted to giving him a shoulder to get him to back off.

Again, the referee was standing around, occupying space in the ring without warning, penalizing or disqualifying Wood for this utterly illegal tactic. In boxing, you’re not supposed to shoulder your opponent. Those are the rules, and Wood got away with it.

Wood unlikely to get Dickens next

Dickens (30-3,11 KO) beat the 33-year-old Wood by a 10 round majority decision last year in February 2020 at York Hall, and the loss has still stuck in Leigh’s craw. He can’t forget about it.

Image: Leigh Wood wants Jazza Dickens or Emanuel Navarrete next

Although Wood would like a chance for redemption against Dickens, he’s likely to need to settle for fighting Xu Can in a rematch, as the Chinese fighter has a rematch clause that he’s almost surely going to exercise.

Wood’s promoter Eddie Hearn doubts that Xu Can, 27, won’t force the rematch after the way he lost, but that’s wishful thinking on his part. Of course, Xu will use his rematch clause because it gives him a straight title shot.

Without that, it could take Xu years before he gets a crack at one of the other champions at 126, and he may never get there. Hearn sounded a little detached from reality with his strange prediction that Xu won’t force a rematch with Wood. Again, it’s a given that Xu will force the rematch because he doesn’t have any other options available to him.

“I’m easy; redemption with Dickens would be great for myself,” said Wood after the fight last night. “Full confidence in [coach] Ben [Davison] getting my tactics right for that fight, I had a bad night that fight, the first southpaw I boxed as a pro, I’d like to put that right naturally.

“But if there are bigger fights, I said I wanted the [Emmanuel] Navarrete fight; he’s explosive like me, that’ll be absolute fireworks. People might slate me and say it’s a regular title [WBA secondary 126-lb strap], let’s fight for the supertitle, let’s unify – I want big fights,” said Wood.

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The real question is, will Wood’s promoter Eddie Hearn do the legwork to put a unification fight together with WBO 126-lb champion Navarrete?

I’m not holding my breath, waiting for that to happen. It’s fair to say that Wood will NEVER fight Navarrete in this lifetime, no way. Hearn knows boxing, and he obviously understands what a talent like Navarrete would do Wood if given a chance.

Even if Wood is allowed to stiff-arm Navarrete and shoulder him, it’s not going to save him from getting bludgeoned to bits by the talented Mexican fighter. Those tactics worked against Xu Can because he’s small and a weak puncher, but against a talented featherweight like Navarrete, Gary Russell Jr, or Leo Santa Cruz, Wood would be up the creek without a paddle.

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