Xu Can arrived with an imposing reputation, but Leigh Wood left no doubts as he finished him inside the 12th round at Matchroom’s Fight Camp

CHINA’S Xu Can, the ‘Monster,’ came to the first show of Matchroom’s Fight Camp series on Saturday (July 31) with the reputation of a fearsome volume-puncher. But he left soundly beaten. Leigh Wood nullified him almost from the start. Can marched into the centre of the ring with his gloves up, only for Wood to whip hooks round his defences, screw his jab through that guard and follow up with crosses.

For fleeting moments Can opened up with attacks, chopping at the Nottingham man with firm rights when he could. But as the contest progressed more and more he simply covered up without firing back himself, failing to answer Wood’s attacks. If he was running out of ideas, Wood was not. He cycled through his repertoire of shots, offsetting Can and marking him up. He left Can a forlorn figure, looking increasingly adrift.

Wood was soundly outboxing him. But he provided the final flourish in the last. A booming right hook thumped round Can’s guard, dropping him onto the seat of his shorts. He was hurt and Wood set about him, harrying him across the ring and into the ropes. Can could not muster a response even though referee Marcus McDonnell gave him more than enough time. The official had to step in to end it with 17 seconds left in the bout.

As Wood celebrated the breakout win of his career, quietly Xu walked to all four sides of the ring and bowed briskly to the crowd around him before he departed.

A ‘regular’ WBA belt passed to Wood, a strap which in turn is secondary to the WBA’s ‘super’ belt that Leo Santa Cruz hasn’t defended since 2019.

Bournemouth’s Chris Billam-Smith and Tommy McCarthy fought one another to a near standstill at times. In the first round McCarthy shook him up with a huge right. But Billam-Smith weathered it and regrouped. He began to tag the Belfast man with solid jabs and brought in heavier shots with his right. The Englishman made in roads in the fifth round, trapping McCarthy on the ropes as he attacked.

But McCarthy came back, changing the momentum again. He shifted smoothly on his feet, bringing through a strong right uppercut to set up his hook. He swept those punches into Billam-Smith from unexpected angles, having to shrug off the effects of a cut by his right eye himself. Billam-Smith seemed to tire, his mouth hung open as he sucked in air but he managed to land firm blows to the body and the head. They had to fight desperately hard all the way through to final round. It was Billam-Smith who edged just ahead.

The decision was split. John Latham scored 115-114 for McCarthy, while Mark Lyson had it 115-114 and Ian John-Lewis 116-112 both for Billam-Smith. Victor Loughlin refereed.

Billam-Smith won McCarthy’s European cruiserweight title, the vacant British title and defended his Commonwealth belt.

Little Lever’s “Meat Cleaver” Jack Cullen defeated Avni Yilidirm, the Turkish fighter who had been such an underwhelming opponent for Canelo Alvarez in February. Cullen backed off and tagged the too-stationary Yildirim with jabs before scraping combinations through the visitor’s open guard. But Yildirim came on more in the second half of the 10 rounder, thumping his right over the top, damaging Cullen’s nose and heaving left hooks into the body. It had appeared enough to make the bout close, but the judges were widely in favour of Cullen with Jean-Pierre Van Imschoot scoring 100-90,  Diana Drews-Milani 98-92 and Bob Williams 97-93 all for the Briton. Marcus McDonnell refereed.

Anthony Fowler set up an October 9 showdown with Liam Smith in Liverpool as he defeated Germany’s Rico Mueller. Competing only a few days after becoming a father, Fowler was in control. He drummed straight shots into Mueller’s high guard, slowly battering through and marking up the German.

In the eighth round Fowler smashed a right uppercut-left hook combination through, shaking up the German. The Liverpudlian clubbed him into the ropes, punishing him there. Referee Bob Williams spent a long time watching closely but when Mueller’s legs buckled he had to step in and end it 2-12.

Campbell Hatton, the son of British boxing legend Ricky, picked up the third victory of his professional career, staying on Jakub Laskowski as he diligently winged wide right hooks into the Pole and taking a 40-36 points win from referee Mark Bates.

Sandy Ryan, a top amateur who has won a World silver medal and the Commonwealth Games in years gone by, had hoped to be boxing at the Olympic Games. But she didn’t get to go to a qualification event and made her professional debut at the Matchroom HQ. Pensnett’s Kirstie Bavington caught her up in clinches but the higher quality work came from Ryan over the course of their six rounds. She took a 60-54 win from referee Mark Bates.



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