The 33-year-old has held the belt since realising his world title dream with a dramatic 12th-round stoppage of China’s Xu Can at Matchroom Fight Camp last summer.
Wood (25-2) now faces another stern test against Ireland’s hugely popular London 2012 bronze medalist ‘Mick’ Conlan, who has reeled off 16 successive wins since turning professional with Top Rank in the aftermath of his controversial exit – since avenged – from the Beijing Olympics.
The Belfast boxer dominated TJ Doheny on home soil at Falls Park last August, earning the WBA interim title with a wide decision victory.
A unification bout against the winner of the March 26 clash between Josh Warrington and IBF champion Kiko Martinez likely awaits the victor here, or potentially even a meeting with “super” WBA belt holder Leo Santa Cruz.
Wood believes Conlan’s supreme confidence is a sign of a weakness and it will be fascinating to see how this plays out. In the wake of Jack Catterall’s hugely controversial loss to Josh Taylor, all eyes will be on the judges.
Wood vs Conlan date, start time, venue and ring walks
Wood vs Conlan takes place tonight, Saturday March 12, 2022 at Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.
Ring walks for the headline fight of the evening are expected no earlier than 10pm GMT. The undercard is due to begin at 7pm.
Wood vs Conlan fight card/undercard in full
Leigh Wood vs Michael Conlan
Caoimhin Agyarko vs Juan Carlos Rubio
Terri Harper vs Yamila Belen Abellaneda
Gary Cully vs Miguel Vazquez
Sandy Ryan vs Erica Farias
Nico Leivars vs Jose Hernandez
Thomas Carty vs Michal Boloz
Thomas Whittaker-Hart vs Simon Krebs
How to watch Wood vs Conlan
TV channel: Wood vs Conlan is being broadcast live on sports video streaming service DAZN. A subscription to DAZN currently costs £7.99 a month in the UK.
Live stream: You can also follow all the action as it happens with Standard Sport’s live fight night blog, which will cover the whole card in its entirety.
Wood vs Conlan fight prediction
This is an extremely tough first defence for Wood and could well turn out to be his only one.
Conlan is a massively skilled operator who deserves to have a far bigger reputation among casual boxing fans in this country and will be out to make a statement on Saturday night, becoming a world champion for the first time aged 30.
The vastly experienced Wood rose to the occasion so impressively on an unforgettable night last summer, but we’re backing Conlan to dethrone the champion by unanimous decision.
Wood vs Conlan weigh-in results
Wood and Conlan both made the featherweight limit at a feisty weigh-in on Friday, with the champion at 125.8lbs and his challenger just two ounces lighter.
The two fighters had to be separated during an angry final head-to-head.
“I’m buzzing to be here, this is (a) fairytale, honestly,” said Wood. “Of all the arenas for Carl [Froch] I was at in the seats screaming, I’m now headlining in the same arena. I couldn’t be happier.
“This isn’t the peak or where I stop, I’m going to go further than this. The City Ground fight that you [Eddie Hearn] have dangled in front of me for so long, you said after this fight it’s happening, so I’ll hold you to that.
“But eyes on Saturday night first. I’m coming to get the job done and look good doing it.”
Conlan said: “This is the most relaxed and calm I’ve ever been in a fight week. I don’t feel any pressure, I’m here in the opponent’s back garden and I’ve got to rip the belt off him.
“I hope he’s the best Leigh Wood there’s ever been because I believe I will be. It’ll make it all the sweeter when I beat him. I’m just expecting a fantastic performance by myself.”
Wood vs Conlan betting odds
Wood win: 11/8
Conlan win: 4/7
Wood win on points or by decision: 10/3
Wood win by KO, TKO or DQ: 7/2
Conlan win on points or by decision: Evens
Conlan win by KO, TKO or DQ: 5/1
Odds via Betfair (subject to change).