UPDATE: Mauricio Lara missed weight on Friday morning. The title will be at stake only for Leigh Wood. Coverage here.
WBA World Featherweight champion Mauricio Lara of Mexico City (24-2-1, 17 KOs) and Leigh Wood of Nottingham (26-2, 16 KOs) couldn't wait for a rematch. Fans won't mind one bit seeing Lara Wood 2 again so soon.
In February, Lara and Wood gave fans a banger fight, though not the outcome Wood’s hometown fans hoped for. With Wood in command and ahead on the scorecards going into the seventh round, Lara exchanged left hooks with Wood, landing a perfectly placed punch to the chin. Wood dropped hard to the canvas. He got to his feet, but before action could restart, trainer Ben Davison threw in the towel straight into the hands of referee Michael Alexander, who stopped the bout at 54 seconds of the round.
Wood didn’t hesitate in seeking the rematch against Lara. The champion happily complied. Expect the same all-action thrills on Saturday, this at the much larger Manchester Arena. U.S. fans can watch on DAZN with the card starting at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT.
After taking his belt home to his wife and daughter, Lara, age 24, happily returned to the UK which has become a second home for the giant killer, who took down undefeated Josh Warrington as a virtual unknown before wiping out Wood. Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn needs to wise up about bringing mystery Mexican opponents to the UK.
“This is my fourth time in this country,” said Lara via a translator. “On the third time he was here, I managed to win that world title on a fantastic night. It was a dream that I had for a long time.
“I said it the first time, if we had the opportunity that we would give the opportunity back to Leigh Wood if we managed to win. It's great that we can go on to have another great fight here.” But Lara is not taking Wood lightly. “Leigh Wood isn’t just any boxer.
You know, it will be a difficult fight. But it's about continuing, as I say cementing that victory, and making history in this sport.”
No Doubt About It For Wood
As for Wood, not a shred of doubt he would get right back in the ring with Lara. At Thursday’s final news conference, he said to Matchroom’s Hearn, “I know you tried to persuade me otherwise. I'm ready to get this back and look good doing it.”
“I’m not saying it’s going to be an easy fight. I’ll be prepared for anything he brings. The first time, it's hard because we haven't got his style against my style to look at. Now we've got that information. And now we know what he does when I do certain things. I've been preparing for him for nearly a year, starting in September from the previous fight. So, I know him inside out and just gonna go in there and prove that I'm the better fighter.”
At age 34, Wood feels the pressure of a must-win fight. “I love it, I thrive on it, and whatever it takes Saturday night, I’m coming away with a win. This is what gets me off.
“You know, I can't afford to lose. That could be the end of the road if I lose. It'd be very hard to come back from, and that's what I'm thinking about, doing everything I can do to win.”
Lara Looking for The Quick Knockout
Lara promises he’ll be on fire from the opening bell. “Last time was a calm performance. I'm really confident in my training camp and what we've done. I want to back up and cement that victory. And I want to, as you say, do it in in quicker fashion. I'll be looking for that knockout from the very first round.”
No disagreement from Wood not seeing the final bell on Saturday after 12 rounds. “Yes, it's highly likely to be honest, I think I'm gonna able to break him down and stop him late.”
As for Lara, when asked if he agreed, he was to the point: “Yes!”
Wood’s trainer Ben Davison said his decision to throw in the towel was made in the moment, knowing there was a rematch clause giving Wood the opportunity to take the title back.
“He's so disciplined when it comes to approaching fights and going into game plans, to actually take him away from a certain style match up to and then bring him back to it would have actually been more difficult than it will be to go straight into a quick turnaround.” Davidson said he expects Lara to shed some of the respect he showed Wood in the first fight and be more aggressive.
“So, some adjustments, of course, and I'm sure Mauricio and his team will have some adjustments. But you know, Leigh knows what he needs to do. And we're confident in the execution of that game plan.”
Wood knows what it’s like to win an improbable victory after scoring a come-from-behind knockout win over Michael Conlan in the final seconds of their fight in 2022. He’s got a daunting challenge in front of him with Lara, who won his own improbably victory against Warrington and then doubled down against Lara. He now has the confidence a championship gives a fighter. Whoever prevails is likely to take on Warrington. There is bad blood between Lara and Warrington, giving the Mexican even more fuel to score the rematch win and face his nemesis for a fifth fight in the UK.
Terri Harper Added to Undercard
After WBA Super Welterweight champion Terri Harper’s defense against former champion Cecilia Braekhus fell through due to illness on the Taylor vs. Cameron undercard last weekend, Matchroom Boxing quickly put together a replacement fight for Harper on the Lara-Wood 2 undercard.
Harper, age 26, of Yorkshire, England (13-1-1, 6 KOs) will now defend against former welterweight champion Ivana Habazin of Croatia (21-4, 7 KOs). This will be the 33-year-old Habazin’s third attempt to win a title at 154 pounds. In 2020, she lost a lopsided decision to Claressa Shields. She’s had just one fight since then, a 2022 decision win at welterweight.
It may amount to a stay-busy fight for Harper, saving a training camp. Habazin is ranked fifth among an admittedly shallow talent pool. Natasha Jonas of Liverpool (13-2-1, 8 KOs) owns the other three belts, and currently has a tentative fight scheduled in the same Manchester Arena on July 1. Expect Harper and Jonas to tangle later this year in yet another top women’s unification bout assuming both win their current fights. And expect Jonas to be ringside Saturday.
Jack Catterall Makes Ring Return
Former super lightweight champion Jack Catterall of Lancashire (26-1, 13 KOs) begins his quest to come back from a narrow loss exactly one year ago to the day against Josh Taylor, a fight many observers believed he’s won. He takes on Darragh Foley of Kent (22-4-1, 10 KOs). Foley has spent most of his career in Australia. Foley is a southpaw Taylor-made (see what we did there?) for Catterall to get back on the horse preparing for a possible rematch.