By BN24 Staff: Just over three months after their first dance, two of the biggest punchers in the featherweight division will run it back tonight, live on DAZN.
On February 18th, Leigh Wood put his WBA world featherweight championship on the line against the devilishly dangerous Mexican contender Mauricio Lara. “I picked him,” Wood boasted during fight week as the build to the showdown at Nottingham Arena intensified.
Both men predicted it wouldn’t go the distance, and unsurprisingly they were correct in their respective predictions. This wasn’t about the art of hitting and not getting hit – this was pure theatrical war in a boxing ring. Less about jabs and more about left hooks and big straight rights.
‘Leigh-thal’ was ahead on all three scorecards by the seventh round until, in the dying embers of the round, Lara uncorked a thunderous left hook on the chin of the hometown hero that floored him and forced his trainer Ben Davison to throw the towel in. A move that, at the time, seemed hasty but, with hindsight, was undoubtedly the correct decision. Compassion for his fighter who was obviously hurt and dazed, saved him from another barrage of punches from the heavy-handed Mexican that would have knocked him clean out.
Some bloodthirsty keyboard warriors on social media berated Davison’s decision to pull Wood out, but he allowed his man to fight another day, safe in the knowledge that a rematch clause was in place. The battle was lost, yet the war will rage on.
The victor, clearly emotional, clashed with former adversary Josh Warrington at ringside as tempers flared between Lara and the former two-time IBF world featherweight champion from Leeds.
Whilst Lara was being announced as the winner, Wood was already adamant about invoking his rematch clause. Thankfully, all parties involved are giving fight fans want they want – Lara vs. Wood 2 – this Saturday night, live on DAZN.
Having sold out Nottingham Arena the first time around, Matchroom moved the rematch to the bigger AO Arena in Manchester.
This time, Wood (26-3) will have to avoid a heavy shot that took Lara (26-2-1) seven rounds to land. Can he avoid it for 12? Despite being ahead on all three of the judges’ scorecards, it was far from a one-sided battle. Both warriors landed power shots, and ultimately it was Lara’s that ended the fight.
The Nottingham man could have taken an easier voluntary defense but chose Lara and could have avoided the rematch, but once again, wants to challenge the now-champion. Will he regret his braveness by the end of Saturday Night? I don’t think so. The former champion only wants to face the stiffest competition – win, lose, or draw. It’s an admirable trait amongst today’s modern crop of boxers who are averse to consistently facing the best possible competition.
I firmly believe the duo have the utmost respect for each other, which grew after that fight in Nottingham. But which camp has learned the most from that first valuable lesson? Will Lara be equally confident of delivering another devastating knockout? Or, will Ben Davison, renowned for his smarts, be able to tweak the gameplan enough for his charge to stay away from the champion’s heaviest fight-ending punches? Another factor to consider is the near-decade age gap. Wood, at 34, is much nearer to retirement than Lara, at just 25 years old.
“I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m more confident going into the second fight than I was the first one,” Wood explained in Matchroom’s Behind Closed Doors mini-documentary. He conceded that he gave Lara the opening for the fight-ending punch rather than Lara earning it himself. It was an admission of a lapse in concentration that cost him his world title.
Interestingly, Gerardo Lopez, Mauricio’s father, and trainer, said, “We’re preparing doubly as hard to win inside the distance because if it goes 12, they’ll give it to him.”
As Wood’s career lays on the line, it’s hard to bet against him, especially given his home advantage. But Mauricio Lara isn’t an easy man to beat. Only twice has that happened in the prospect stage of his professional career. Since August 2018, he’s won 15 of his last 16 fights, 13 via stoppage. Just a technical draw in his rematch with Josh Warrington blights his recent copybook.
Elsewhere on Saturday’s card, Jack Catterall (26-1) finally gets back in the ring fifteen months after his hugely controversial loss to Josh Taylor for four 140-pound world titles. Even more galling is the fact that the rematch fell through on more than one occasion and looks unlikely to ever happen. His opponent, Darragh Foley (22-4-1), arrives having beaten super-lightweight contender Robbie Davies Jr. via TKO in March. Davies Jr. fractured his ankle as he hit the canvas due to a big right hook from Foley.
Catterall, from Manchester and training out of Tenerife, believes he’s levels above Foley and will comfortably deal with the Australian-based Irishman. Not known for knockout power, Catterall is a southpaw adept at dealing with whatever is put in front of him and knows how to get the win, even if it means making a fight ugly. His training team of Jamie Moore and Nigel Travis will be buoyed by Chantelle Cameron’s magnificent win last weekend in Dublin.
Just seven days after suffering the heartbreak of not fighting at around 12 hours’ notice, Terri Harper (13-1-1) returns to Manchester. Due to defending her WBA super-welterweight belt against former longtime undisputed world welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus on last Saturday’s historic Taylor vs. Cameron card in Dublin, Braekhus fell ill on the morning of the fight and sadly pulled out.
Eddie Hearn was able to schedule the 26-year-old to now go up against Ivana Habazin (21-4) instead. The former two-weight world titleholder won’t just be turning up for a payday. Considering the lack of time to make this fight, it is a worthy world title defense for the highly-rated Harper.
On Saturday’s undercard, Danny Ball battles Jamie Robinson for the English welterweight championship. Campbell Hatton has his 12th pro bout as the super-lightweight slowly builds to title contention. Aqib Fiaz also partakes in his 12th paid contest, and William Crolla, brother of former lightweight world titleholder, Anthony, makes his pro debut.