Wood Takes Teachings of ‘Special’ Irish Mentor into Conlan Fight

The words of a legendary Dublin coach continuously ring in the ears of Leigh Wood  [25(15)-2(1)] as he prepares to defend his WBA ‘regular’ featherweight world title against Michael Conlan [16(8)-0].

‘Winning a world title is hard, holding on to it is even harder,’ was one of the late great Brendan Ingle’s go-to quotes, it’s one he told Wood over and over again – and they are words of wisdom that resonate now.

The teachings of the Sheffield adopted Dub may just help the Nottingham fighter keep his focus and put in the work ahead of his first defense, against Belfast’s Conlan on March 12, but the champion notes Ingle’s impact has been career-long and is greater than one fight or one camp.

The Wincobank Gym founder was the now Ben Davidson trained title holder’s first mentor, the man who made him believe and a major factor in the humble, even simple English fighter’s recent success.

“Brendan was my mentor, so much so, leaving the Ingle Gym was a big thing for me. Brendan had brought me to the gym and he used to tell me: ‘You’re going to be British, Commonwealth, European and World champion and I hope to God I see it,’ ” Wood told Irish media in Belfast last week.

“I believed him but when he passed away the gym changed.”

Wood claims the man, that guided the likes of Prince Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson, Ryan Rhodes and Kell Brook from amateur to international success still has a massive influence on his career – and says he will spare him a thought if he retains against the Irish favourite.

“He had a massive influence on my career,” he adds. “Even today things he drilled into me keep coming back. I’d rock up into the gym and he’d say something over and over. I’d think to myself ‘why is he saying this so many times’ and then since he passed you remember all the things. One thing that really sticks out is ‘Winning a world title hard, keeping one is harder, so you need to be sure you are on your game and always rise to the challenge’. All these little things stuck in my head and serve me well today.

“I’ll be thinking of him when I retain the belt. I could stand here all day and tell you about Brendan, he was a very special man and a very special coach. His method of teaching won’t ever be replicated. There will never be another Brendan Ingle.”

Sadly the boxing guru passed away in 2018, his sons Dominic and John took over the running of the gym and their approach wasn’t for Wood.

“The Ingles let me down for a British title fight for the third time,” he says.

“I hadn’t boxed in a year but I’d been in the gym every day for the entire year. I was really low and I remember crying and I decided to leave the Ingles which was a big thing for me.”

Wood’s respect for Ingle will go down well with Irish fight fans and lessen any of the ire toward him, that comes naturally when you take on an Irish foe.

The manner in which he disregarded the signed glove given to him by Conlan during the press conference may have had the opposite effect, but speaking to the press after he laughed it off.

The Matchroom fighter also revealed he never asked for a signed Conlan glove.

“It’s funny. They’ve photoshopped it, but it adds to the humour and it adds to the fight. My own friends were asking ‘when did you ask for that’. My friends did one back with Mick saying how powerful I was after the Xu Can fight. It’s all part of it isn’t it?”

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com