Matchroom: Xu vs Wood Predictions
Xu vs Wood: Main Event
Xu Can (18-2, 3KO) vs Leigh Wood (24-2, 14KO)
WBA World Featherweight Title
After Conor Benn was forced to postpone his fight with Adrian Granados due to a positive COVID test, Xu Can and Leigh Wood’s title fight has been bumped up to main event rights. Although the pre-fight emphasis has surrounded Leigh Wood, as expected of the British press over a British fighter, this is far from an easy path to a world title. It was only a year ago that Wood was out-worked in an ugly decision loss to Jazza Dickens. While Dickens’ is a solid British level fighter, he is far from an elite force at Featherweight. Trainer, Ben Davison, can claim all he wants that Wood possesses the ‘top P4P power’ on the pads – but this is a fighter who took nine rounds to stop David Oliver Joyce. In comparison, Ionut Baluta, the feather duster himself, took only three rounds to sleep Joyce.
Styles make fights, however, and Leigh Wood could prove Xu’s kryptonite. In all fairness to the Nottinghamshire native, clear technical improvements since moving to Davison were visible against Reece Mould last time out. Constantly using the jab on the back-foot, Wood keeps a calculation over range while looking busy to the scorers. Better yet, when Wood lowers into a body jab, the weight behind the shot forces reactions out of opponents. Often caught in two minds between shelling up behind a guard to counter or weather the storm before pressing, Wood’s jab is the perfect tool to control range. Worryingly, Wood tends to utilise the 1-2 pull counter frequently as his means to break an opponent’s guard. Against Can, however, Wood won’t have the benefit of superior reach than in his previous fights. Still, Wood’s uppercut is a majestic shot on the inside that splits through the middle of an opponents guard and slows their advances.
Height and reach may prove to be an insurmountable mountain for Wood this fight. Wood can box off the ropes, as seen during the early rounds against Jazza Dickens, but he cannot maintain an intense pace for the full twelve rounds. There is a real worry that if Wood cannot settle behind his jab, he could unravel under the sustained pressure from Can. Although Wood will have ample opportunity to time power counters as Can stalks into range, he struggles to free himself from clinches. If Can is willing and able to eat Wood’s hard counter, the champion can tangle Wood in a clinch similar to Dickens and break the body. Dickens’ most hurtful work landed after breaking from Wood, with the Nottingham man dropping his hands and resetting his feet in the pocket. Wood may have a solid chin, but it remains a cause for concern for a fighter who has been stopped previously.
WBA Featherweight champion, Xu Can, emerged out of the shadows with a huge win over Jesus Rojas back at the start of 2019. While the wide scorecards don’t replicate the razor-close nature of the fight, Can proved his heart, deep gas tank and champion mindset after unloading a ferocious volume from start to finish. Sliding laterally around the outside Can takes shots onto his high guard before launching sharp three-punch combinations which often start with a stinging left hook. Even with the high guard, Can’s decision to remain at striking range and lack of head movement both leave him eating far more damage than necessary. Against a fighter like Wood who carries thudding power, it seems foolish, but there is little doubting Can’s granite chin.
Preferring to fight off the back-foot and unload bursts of shots, Can’s lack of a jab may bite him on the backside. Whether Wood’s jab lands or not, the frequency of the shot will look even tastier to the judges if Can has willingly backed himself onto the ropes. Unlike the Rojas fight, Wood will not simply walk Can down and engage in rock-em sock-em action. While Can was more active on the front foot against Manny Robles, he still failed to control distance. Chasing Robles’ in a straight line and allowing the Mexican to slip out the side when pressed to the ropes, Can’s sole focus on unloading volume is often to his detriment.
The stats may claim that Xu Can landed 1562 punches in his title defence against Manny Robles, but therein lies the other great question mark over Can as the champion. Despite his nickname “The Monster”, he lacks the fearsome knockout power required to bully opponents in his preferred extended exchanges in the pocket. Power, however, shouldn’t be much of an issue against Wood. As seen against Dickens, Wood can fold under relentless pressure. Can’s inability to tie up opponents and drain their gas tank, however, once again plays into Wood’s hands. In a hectic but clean fight on the outside, Wood’s straight shots and evasive footwork should bank early rounds.
Predicted Result: Wood Decision
Although the pre-fight emphasis has surrounded Leigh Wood, as expected of the British press over a British fighter, this is far from an easy path to a world title. It was only a year ago that Wood was out-worked in an ugly decision loss to Jazza Dickens. WBA Featherweight champion, Xu Can, possesses heart, relentless volume and a deep gas tank. Sliding laterally around the outside Can takes shots onto his high guard before launching sharp three-punch combinations which often start with a stinging left hook. As seen against Dickens, Wood can fold under sustained pressure, yet Can’s inability to tie up opponents and drain their gas tank plays into Wood’s hands. In a hectic but clean fight on the outside, Wood’s straight shots and evasive footwork should bank early rounds.
Although Wood will find himself the smaller fighter on this rare occasion, the Nottingham boxer’s preference for straight shots will regularly find the mark against an opponent who always remains in range. Worse yet for Can, his fight against Manny Robles showcased his lack of ring generalship. Chasing Robles’ in a straight line and allowing the Mexican to slip out the side when pressed to the ropes, Can’s sole focus on unloading volume is often to his detriment. If the champion is unwilling, or unable, to drag Wood into an ugly fight with ample use of the clinch, he will be regularly be beaten to the punch in 50/50 exchanges. While Can’s ridiculous volume will always benefit him on the scorecards, expect a tightly scored affair between two durable fighters.
Result: Wood def. Xu // TKO Round 12 2:43
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Xu vs Wood: Co-Main Event
Tommy McCarthy (18-2, 9KO) vs Chris Billam-Smith (12-1, 10KO)
EBU European Cruiserweight Title
Commonwealth Cruiserweight Title
vacant British Cruiserweight Title
Northern Irishman, Tommy McCarthy, has been creeping up the Cruiserweight rankings in the dark. Since falling to a crushing fourth-round TKO loss to Richard Riakporhe, McCarthy has taken tough fights away from home to rebuild his career. After securing the WBC International title from the previously undefeated, Fabio Turchi, on his home turf, McCarthy hasn’t looked back. Aiming for his second defence of the European title, secured via majority decision against a rugged Bilal Laggoune, McCarthy faces his stiffest test to date.
Waving his lead hand in front of an opponent’s face, he patiently waits for opponents to draw onto his counters. Although there are extended periods of nothing serious being thrown, McCarthy’s ability to keep active with the jab has seen him favoured in razor-thin decisions. McCarthy has a good eye for incoming shots, able to pick his counters or slip the most significant damage. Unfortunately, as seen against Riakporhe, his lack of footwork leaves him stranded. Against an opponent with considerable reach, it meant McCarthy was consistently peppered on the outside. Against Chris Billam-Smith, a fighter more than willing to string together combinations, McCarthy lacks the evasive footwork necessary to keep himself safe.
Despite his youthful looks, Billam-Smith is thirty years old and taking a much-needed step up in competition. Aside from the disputed split decision loss to Richard Riakporhe, Billam-Smith has otherwise been spectacular in the professional ranks. Aiming to defend his Commonwealth title for a second time, a world title shot remains only a couple of fights away if he is to come through victorious on Saturday night.
A giant for the weight class, Billam-Smith is a bruiser who thuds bodywork home on the inside. It is on the outside where Billam-Smith excels, however. Using his jab to manage distance, Billam-Smith manoeuvres around the ropes and never risks getting caught in a corner. Against Vasil Ducar, Billam-Smith was stunned in the second round but rode out the recovery with a hurtful jab and educated decision to tie up his opponent. By the mid-rounds, after Billam-Smith has made the necessary reads, he begins to unleash his powerful right hand that is more than capable of cracking a chin.
Predicted Result: Billam-Smith TKO Round 10
Northern Irishman, Tommy McCarthy, has been honing his craft and creeping up the Cruiserweight rankings in the dark. Since falling to a crushing fourth-round TKO loss to Richard Riakporhe, McCarthy has carved a wonderful five-fight streak including an away win against the undefeated, Fabio Turchi. With an increased emphasis on the jab, McCarthy waves his lead hand in front of an opponent’s face and patiently waits to draw opponents onto his counters. During periods of inactivity, McCarthy’s jab has often been the key behind his split decision victories. Unfortunately, as seen against Riakporhe, his lack of footwork leaves him stranded. Billam-Smith’s size and ability to string together combinations will expose McCarthy’s lack of evasive footwork. CBS is not only massive for the weight class, but he also owns an educated jab. A wonderful manager of distance, CBS can hold his own against McCarthy at range, but will truly pull ahead on the inside.
Result: Billam-Smith def. McCarthy // Decision (split – 114-115, 115-114, 116-112)
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Xu vs Wood: Rest of the Card
Anthony Fowler (14-1, 11KO) vs Rico Mueller (28-3-1, 19KO)
Super Welterweight (154)
WBA International Super Welterweight Title
Everybody’s favourite CBD salesman returns again against a less than stellar opponent. When Brian Rose represents the greatest test of Fowler’s career since his defeat to Scott Fitzgerald, it leaves a lot of head-scratching as to when the scouser will climb to the next level. It is a shame that Fowler has such a grating personality, as his style is pretty fan-friendly.
Although missing one-shot knockout power, Fowler’s volume heavy swarming forces opponents to engage in extended exchanges. Since joining McGuigan, Fowler’s jab has started to become a more regular weapon of his arsenal – critically the body jab that has stopped the Welterweight from headhunting in the same manner as his early career. While Fowler is able to maintain a ridiculously heavy volume due to a wonderful gas tank, by pouring it on early, fighters are able to adjust to Fowler’s sole pace.
You can be forgiven if you hadn’t heard of thirty-three-year-old German, Rico Mueller, before the Fowler match-up. Mueller’s greatest claim to fame is taking P4P great, Jeff Horn, a full nine rounds in his backyard back in 2016. Using Boxing math, perhaps Mueller would also be able to beat Manny Pacquiao. More recently, Mueller dropped a close decision to Jeremias Ponce for the IBF world title, the same Ponce who dismantled Lewis Ritson. While Fowler isn’t the first quality opponent of Mueller’s career, the German’s lack of success against top opposition leaves little to be desired.
Mueller feels like a pretty kind match-up for Fowler. Fighting behind a very high guard, Mueller leaves his ribs exposed and will be vulnerable to Fowler’s 3-4 body hook combinations. The German is tough and is happy to wade through punishment to land off the front foot, but he possesses almost no counter striking to note. Worse yet, when dragged into 50/50 exchanges in the pocket, Mueller drops his hands and leaves his chin wide open. There is only so far a strong chin will take you, and if Fowler cannot find the clean opportunities to put Mueller away, then his potential future at the top of the sport will be in jeopardy.
Predicted Result: Fowler TKO Round 9
Everybody’s favourite CBD salesman returns again against a less than stellar opponent. It is a shame that Fowler has such a grating personality, as his style is pretty fan-friendly. Although missing one-shot knockout power, Fowler’s volume heavy swarming and deep gas tank force opponents to exchange. Since joining McGuigan, Fowler’s jab has started to become a more regular weapon of his arsenal – critically the body jab. Mueller has had experience with top-quality opposition, performing admirably against Jeff Horn and Jeremias Ponce, but his style is extremely limited. Walking opponents down with a high guard, Mueller throws powerful shots off the front foot and aims to break down opponents. The German lacks any sort of educated counter-game, and especially troublesome against Fowler is Mueller’s tendency to drop his hands when dragged into wars in the pocket. here is only so far a strong chin will take you, and if Fowler cannot find the clean opportunities to put Mueller away, then his potential future at the top of the sport will be in jeopardy.
Result: Fowler def. Mueller // TKO Round 8 2:12
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌
Avni Yildirim (21-3, 12KO) vs Jack Cullen (19-2-1, 9KO)
Super Middleweight (168)
Well, the Canelo experiment went just about as well as expected. The Turkish prospect was pieced apart by a green Chris Eubank Jr, just how exactly had Yildirim improved since then to warrant a world title shot against the P4P number one? Although Yildirim has been stopped in the third round twice already, he is still a durable man that attempts to break opponents on the inside. Against Canelo, Yildirim was left gun-shy after Canelo slaughtered the body early. Against the corpse of Anthony Dirrell, Yildirim was pieced apart on the outside and barely looked any better on the inside until Dirrell’s cut appeared. Against Eubank Jr, Yildirim was out-worked at his own game as Eubank peppered the Turk with uppercuts. Yildirim is a bully on the inside who will keep up the pressure for twelve rounds unless an opponent can earn his respect.
What on earth is this step-up for Cullen. The Lancashire lad is a giant for the weight, with an excellent frame to build off of, but it was just last year that he comprehensively lost to fellow prospect, Zak Chelli. Cullen has a wonderful chin, evidenced by his ability to eat eight rounds of Felix Cash’s bombs without the lights going out. Yildirim will struggle to knock over the northern skyscraper, especially as the Turk will fight a similar fight to that of Cash. Expect a contest with both men resting their foreheads together, and going to town with combinations to the body and head. Owing to Cullen’s height, his liberal use of illegal shoulders and elbows are primed to open up cuts on Yildirims face. Having finally started to use his straight shots against John Docherty, Cullen may be starting to utilise his natural gifts.
Predicted Result: Cullen Decision
What in the world is this match-up, lmao. Imagine fighting the P4P number one, to then fight a Lancashire giant who has barely asserted himself at the British level? Worse yet, Cullen is probably the safer pick despite his lack of experience. Yildirim is a bully on the inside and will walk into Cullen’s preferred fight. While the losses to Eubank Jr and Canelo are nothing to be shamed for, failing to assert himself on the inside against the corpse of Anthony Dirrell certainly is. Cullen has a wonderful chin, and as seen last time out against John Docherty, has started to utilise his reach with more frequent straight shots. Owing to Cullen’s height, his liberal use of illegal shoulders and elbows on the inside are also primed to open up cuts on Yildirims face.
Result: Cullen def. Yildirim // Decision (unanimous – 97-93, 98-92, 100-90)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Campbell Hatton (2-0) vs Jakub Laskowski (4-4-1, 2KO)
Facing an opponent with a victory this time around, Campbell Hatton takes another small step in his professional career. Campbell still looks to be a very raw prospect. Showing a penchant for body shots like his father, Campbell walks opponents down and aims to unload. Unfortunately, without effective ring cutting, Hatton has spent the first two fights of his career chasing opponents rather than pinning them down. Worse yet, Hatton is susceptible to eating counters due to his limited head movement. And to top it all off, Campbell hasn’t quite got his conditioning/pacing correct. There is a lot of work left for Hatton, but there is more than enough time for the young lad to get it ironed out.
Although Laskowski represents the first minor step up in competition for Campbell Hatton, his biscuit-like chin is of particular note. It would appear that Eddie is keen to get young Campbell a knockout on his highlight reel, at the expense of Laskowski’s heavier hands than most journeymen. Lethargic and limited, the only threat Laskowski offers is an awkward left hand that is screwed into an uppercut.
Predicted Result: Hatton TKO Round 2
Still a very raw prospect, Campbell Hatton lacks many of the tools necessary to get his inside game flowing. Without effective ring-cutting, head movement when advancing or pacing in a four-round fight, there is a lot that needs to be ironed out. Still, Laskowski is comically bad. Despite representing the first fighter with a win to face Campbell, his record is padded and the lethargic style offers little danger to Hatton’s chin.
Result: Hatton def. Laskowski // Decision (referee’s scorecard – 40-36)
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Xu vs Wood
2021 Boxing Season
Takeaway comments: The state of Yildirim’s career…
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