By Jack Tiernan: Eddie Hearn has a lot of respect for Leigh Wood for choosing Mauricio Lara for a voluntary defense of his WBA featherweight title next week on February 18th at the Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham, England. The fight will be shown live on DAZN.
Wood (26-2, 16 KOs) didn’t have to take this fight, as he could have picked a soft touch from the bottom of the 126-lb rankings, but he wanted to face the big puncher Lara (25-2-1, 18 KOs) to show his boxing fans what he can do to the fighter that obliterated former IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington in 2021, and then was arguably robbed in the rematch seven months later in Leeds.
Hearn isn’t hinting what the34-year-old Wood’s game plan will be for Lara, but he may go to war with him as he did in his last fight against Michael Conlan last year in March.
If Wood is going to battle the younger and harder puncher Lara, he will need a good chin because he’ll be taking massive shots. It’s not a good sign that Wood was hurt by the weak puncher Conlan eleven months ago.
It stands to reason that if Wood could barely handle the power of Conlan, he’s not going to last long against Lara before getting knocked out on February 18th.
It’s probably not going to work for Wood if he elects to use the illegal straight arm against Lara that he continually utilized to dethrone WBA featherweight champion Can Xu in 2021 because the Mexican knockout artist has dealt with that tactic before.
Hopefully, Wood doesn’t resort to using that illegal tactic again because he got away with it all night against Xu without being warned or penalized by the referee that worked thee fight at the Matchroom headquarters in Brentwood, Essex.
“I think Leigh Wood vs. Mauricio Lara has all the ingredients to be fight of the year,” said Eddie Hearn to DAZN Boxing about Leigh Wood’s title defense against Mauricio Lara on February 18th in Nottingham.
“We saw the fight of the year or event or knockout of the year, and one that won many awards in Leigh Wood against Michael Conlan,” Hearrn continued about Wood’s war with Conlan last year in March 2022.
“Last year at the same arena, the arena is going to be jam-packed. It’s so unusual to see a world champion in his hometown to be nearly a 3-to-1-outsider in a voluntary defense.
“Leigh Wood picked Mauricio Lara, and many said when he tore his bicep last year, ‘Oh, Leigh Wood didn’t fancy the fight.’ That’s why he chose him in the first place, and now he’s choosing him again.
“Ben Davison and Leigh Wood believe they can do a job on Mauricio Lara. Mauricio Lara is so convinced he walks straight through Leigh Wood in Nottingham. It’s going to be an absolute thriller in Nottingham on February 18th, and I can’t wait.
“Our ambitions for Dalton Smith is he becomes world champion at 140,” said Hearn about British light welterweight champion Dalton Smith, who faces Billy Allington on the undercard of Wood vs. Lara on February 18th.
“The first step is to win that beautiful Lonsdale belt and put it on the wall. Then we move potentially to European or fringe world level, but the building process of Dalton Smith as a star fighter is underway. He wants to win this outright.
“So it’ll be Allington on February the 18th, and then it’ll be the final defense, headlining in Sheffield in April to win the belt, and then we move on from there to bigger fights. This is just the start for Dalton Smith.
“He’s building a really nice fan base in Sheffield, and just up the road for him in against Allington, who he should be too good for, but he gets the opportunity of a lifetime on the big stage,” said Hearn.
The 26-year-old Dalton Smith (13-0, 10 KOs) will defend his British light welterweight title against Billy Allington (10-1-4) in a 12 round bout on the undercard of the Wood vs. Lara card.