How often do immediate rematches go the same way? Look at Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua recently. Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder’s trilogy. Devin Haney vs George Kambosos Jr. The list goes on. This weekend, Leigh Wood will be hoping to break the rematch curse and overcome Mauricio Lara in their highly anticipated WBA-Super World Featherweight Title rematch on Saturday night.
Leigh Wood lands ring hand on chin of Mauricio Lara in first fight (Photo: BBC)
Let me take you back to the first fight. Saturday 18th February 2023. Nottingham Arena. The stage is set for Nottingham’s beloved world champion to claim his biggest victory to date. The first time Leigh Wood has been in action since his emphatic knockout of Michael Conlan almost a year prior. Wood could have taken an easier knock in an attempt to make another successful defence of his world title, but oh no. Not Leigh Wood. He wants to fight the most feared man in the featherweight division - Mauricio Lara.
When the first bell rang, Leigh Wood looked sharp. The champion had clearly come up with a game plan with coach Ben Davison. They have clearly devised a plan that they think will aid Wood in defeating the fearsome Mexican machine. Yes, ‘Leigh-thal’ would likely struggle to keep this up for 12 rounds, but it was an increasingly positive start for the Englishman.
Everyone knew prior to the fight that Lara was arguably the biggest puncher in the division. Of course, Leigh Wood would have something to say about that, but Lara was certainly widely regarded as a devastating puncher at 126-pounds. Despite being a huge puncher, Lara is reckless. This was beginning to show in the opening rounds as the challenger took some wild swings in an attempt to take Wood’s head off. He was becoming increasingly frustrated and was loading up with huge shots time and time again.
After six rounds you genuinely could have argued that Wood had won every round. Maybe 5-1 in Wood’s favour was more realistic, or perhaps 4-2 to the champion if you were being harsh. No matter how you had it after six rounds, Leigh Wood was winning the fight and was looking sensational. Yes, Lara hadn’t gone anywhere and was still loading up on his big shots, but Wood was dealing with the Mexican puzzle increasingly well as the fight progressed.
Leigh Wood falls to the canvas in Round 7 as Mauricio Lara lands the fight-ending left hook (Photo: The Sun)
That was of course until the seventh round. As Wood grew in confidence, he began to load up a bit more himself. Prior to the fight, both men had been bullish in predicting they would knock their counterpart out. It was becoming apparent that both men were trying to do just that. In boxing though, there are some old cliché sayings that we hear time and time again. ‘Don’t fight their fight’, ‘Box a fighter, fight a boxer’ and ‘You’ve got to close the distance’ are just a few that come to mind. Another that is totally relevant for what unfolded in Round 7 of Wood vs Lara is, ‘don’t hook with a hooker.’
As Leigh Wood wound up to throw a huge left hook of his own, Lara beat him to the punch landing flush on the champion’s chin before the Nottingham man could land his own big shot. Instantly, Wood’s legs wilted as he slowly tumbled to the canvas. The 34-year-old was quick to get up from the flat of his back, but he was on unsteady legs as he beat the count.
Referee Michael Alexander was about to let the bout continue, until Wood’s corner threw the towel in. It was clear that the champion was in no position to continue, with Ben Davison doing the right thing by throwing the towel in. Lara wheeled off in celebration as the realisation set in that he has become the WBA-Super World Featherweight Champion.
Now, just over three months later, here we are for the rematch. Mauricio Lara vs Leigh Wood 2 headlines a huge show on May 27th at the Manchester Arena. This time it’s ‘Bronco’ who will walk to the ring first as the champion. He will likely be a larger favourite than he was last time, but write Leigh Wood off at your peril.
It is clear to see what Wood needs to do the second time around. He cannot stand and trade with Lara. He can’t try and take the Mexican out of there early. The general consensus now is that Leigh Wood will have to put on a boxing clinic for 36 minutes and stay away from Lara’s clubbing shots. If he can do that, he will regain his world title at the first attempt.
Lara lands a left hook on Wood in their first fight back in February (Photo: The Mirror)
Of course, it’s all well and good saying that on paper. Do this, do that. It’s far more difficult actually being the one in the ring doing it all. UK boxing fans and Leigh Wood fans specifically can be optimistic ahead of this compelling rematch. There were enough signs in the opening six rounds and up until the stoppage that tell you that Leigh Wood can win this fight. Yes, it will be tricky and he is severely up against it yet again, but it is by no means impossible.
Kudos to both men for taking the immediate rematch. Wood deserves massive credit for jumping straight back in there with arguably the best featherweight on the planet. Lara also deserves a huge amount of credit for giving ‘Leigh-thal’ another chance at glory and potentially becoming a two-time champion of the world.
Of course, Lara vs Wood 2 is part of a UK boxing triple-header on May 27th. Of the three world title fights across the UK and Ireland, this one is the most compelling and on paper will provide the most excitement. There are so many questions that are still unanswered ahead of this sensational rematch. Can Wood outbox Lara and win the fight on points? Will Lara stop Wood earlier this time? Who will adjust better from the first fight? What a truly magnificent rematch this is!
We are just hours away from witnessing the rematch between Mauricio Lara and Leigh Wood. Fingers crossed the fight lives up to the hype. If it does, what a contest we have to look forward to. This one is simply not to be missed.
Mauricio Lara (26-2-1, 19 KOs)
Leigh Wood - WIN - TKO Round 7
Jose Sanmartin - WIN - KO Round 3
Emilio Sanchez - WIN - KO Round 3
Josh Warrington - TD - Technical draw due to accidental head clash in Round 2
Leigh Wood (26-3, 16 KOs)
Mauricio Lara - LOSS - TKO Round 7
Michael Conlan - WIN - TKO Round 12
Can Xu - WIN - TKO Round 12
Reece Mould - WIN - TKO Round 9
Date: Saturday May 27th 2023
Time: Approx. 10.30PM Ring Walk (GMT)
Venue: Manchester Arena, Manchester, England, UK
Promoter: Eddie Hearn/Matchroom Boxing (live on DAZN)
Official Fight Night Poster (Photo: @MatchroomBoxing on Twitter)
Elsewhere on the undercard in Manchester, the co-feature bout sees Jack Catterall back in action for the first time since his robbery to Josh Taylor in the super-lightweight undisputed clash last year. He faces a tough test in Darragh Foley, who is coming here fresh off the back of a career-best win over Robbie Davies Jr. Also on the bill, Kieron Conway and Linus Udofia collide in a final eliminator for the British Middleweight Title.
It doesn’t stop there for the undercard at the Manchester Arena on May 27th. Danny Ball vs Anthony Tomlinson goes down for the English Welterweight Title. Some other prospects such as Aaron Bowen, Campbell Hatton, Aqib Fiaz and William Crolla make up the best of the rest.