Leigh Wood produced a brutal last-round knockout of Michael Conlan to retain his WBA featherweight title amid worrying scenes in Nottingham.
The powerful punch sent Conlan through the ropes and onto the floor and he was later carried out of the arena on a stretcher and taken to hospital.
Promoter Eddie Hearn said the Belfast fighter was “conscious and talking”.
England’s Wood had himself been knocked down in the first round and was losing before the late knockout.
Wood, who stopped his celebrations to allow his opponent to receive immediate medical treatment, told Dazn: “I just hope Michael is all right; I can’t celebrate until I know he is.
“He is so tough and it was a bad knockout so I just want to see he is all right.”
Hearn called Wood’s win “one of the greatest comebacks” but added “we’re all praying for Michael”.
“It looked a masterclass from Michael and coming into the 12th I could not see a way Leigh could turn the fight around,” Hearn said.
“Michael was two ahead going into the last round, Leigh had to knock him out in the 12th and he did.
“I would love to celebrate but all our thoughts are with Michael.”
Wood, who was in tears at the post-fight news conference, added: “I’m in an emotional state and there have been some tears.
“I heard he is up and talking but I would like to see him.”
Wood fights back after first-round knockdown
Wood, 33, won the ‘regular’ version of the WBA title with a points win over China’s Xu Can in July at Matchroom’s Fight Camp, staged in Hearn’s garden in Brentwood, Essex, because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Wood was set to fight at this venue on the undercard of Carl Froch’s IBF super-middleweight world championship fight against Lucian Bute 10 years ago, but his bout did not go ahead.
However, Wood, who was in the crowd that day cheering on his fellow Nottingham boxer as he beat Bute with a fifth-round knockout, called the opportunity to fight in front of a crowd of just under 10,000 people at the same venue, the Motorpoint Arena, “a fairy tale”.
His hopes nearly ended inside the opening three minutes when he was caught late in the first round by a brilliantly timed and brutally powerful overhand left.
Previously unbeaten Conlan was fighting for a world title in his 17th professional fight after a glittering amateur career that earned him an Olympic bronze medal and gold medals in both the World and European Amateur Championships.
But Wood showed great character and desire as both men repeatedly traded blows in a hugely entertaining clash.
Wood gradually started to work his way back into the fight, aided by some great shots to Conlan’s body before the away fighter was judged to have been knocked down in the 11th, despite arguments from his corner, who told referee Steve Gray their fighter had slipped.
But, after one minute 25 seconds of the final round, it ended in dramatic circumstances. Wood caught Conlan with a glancing blow to the head. Conlan dropped his arms, looking exhausted, and Wood landed the knockout blow.
The WBA ‘super’ featherweight belt is vacant, Mexican Emanuel Navarrette, is the WBO champion, with Mark Magsayo of the Philippines holding the WBC crown after ending the long reign of American Gary Russell Jr with a majority points decision win in January.
But Wood will be very keen to watch the fight for the IBF title as Spanish title holder Kiko Martinez takes on England’s Josh Warrington in Warrington’s home city of Leeds on 26 March.
If Warrington is victorious, that could set up a stadium fight at Leeds United’s Elland Road or at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground.
Hearn added: “If Leigh Wood fights in Nottingham again it will be at the City Ground, that has been his dream for a long time.”
Agyarko and Harper win undercard fights
Caoimhin Agyarko extended his professional record to 11 wins from 11 contests.
He was never in trouble against Mexican Juan Carlos Rubio, who showed great courage to reach the final bell.
Two judges gave Agyarko every round (100-90), and the third judge called it 98-92, as the Belfast fighter kept hold of his WBA international middleweight title.
Former women’s super-featherweight world champion Terri Harper got back to ways after stepping up to lightweight with a wide points win over Argentina’s Yamila Belen Abellaneda.
Harper, 25, said she was “embarrassed” by her loss to Alycia Baumgardner in November, which saw her relinquish the title she had held since July 2019.
Harper started well against Belen Abellaneda – however, she sustained a bad-looking cut over her left eye in the third round.
Belen Abellaneda kept coming forward but took a lot of punishment with Harper having success with lefts to the head and body and some powerful uppercuts on her way to a deserved win.
Irish lightweight Gary Cully maintained his unbeaten record with his 14th professional win as he knocked out Miguel Vasquez in five rounds after earlier putting him down in the third.
original source: Michael Conlan ‘conscious and talking’ after Leigh Wood retains world title with brutal knockout