Few had heard of Mauricio Lara before he faced Josh Warrington at Wembley Arena in February. However, it took less than 27 minutes for Lara to etch his name in British boxing folklore. The Mexican dropped the Leeds fighter twice, prior to obliging referee Howard Foster to halt the contest in the ninth round.
Tonight, Warrington has the opportunity to avenge the defeat when the pair meet in front of 20,000 fans at Headingley Stadium, Leeds. Ahead of the first bout, Lara was an 11/1 underdog, but this time around the odds are far closer, with the Mexican currently priced at 6/5 with BetFred.
The drastic swing in odds reflects the dominance of Lara’s performance earlier this year. Yet, Warrington remains the slight favourite. Despite the emphatic nature of the defeat, there are plenty of factors that could be used as mitigation for the outcome. Warrington had been out of the ring for 16 months and had recently vacated his IBF featherweight strap to pursue a summer showdown with Xu Can. He had spoken at length about his desire for career-defining fights; an unheralded boxer with a 22-2 record did not fit that description. Due to Covid restrictions, the fight took place in an empty arena, denying Warrington the chance to draw energy from his vociferous Leeds fan base.
No one can be certain of the true explanation for the loss; perhaps, Lara is simply the superior fighter. Tonight, the answer should become apparent. One keen observer will be Kid Galahad (28-1, 17 KOs). Warrington and Galahad have history. They have known each other since they were teenagers, they fought as amateurs, then as professionals in 2019 with Warrington prevailing via controversial split decision. Subsequently, Galahad has gone onto capture the IBF world title previously held by the Leeds man. As such, the Ingle-trained fighter is well-placed to predict how Warrington may fare tonight, but he, like many others, is simply not certain of how the fight will unfold.
“I hope he beats Lara, but you just don’t know with Warrington,” Galahad told Boxing Social. “Can he change his style in a short space of time? Not really, no. You don’t know what’s really happened, do you? What happened in the previous camp?”
Like many, the first fight has left Galahad with more questions than answers. However, the one thing the Sheffield fighter can say with confidence is that he feels Warrington has given too much time to media obligations in the build-up to the bout. Working with the press is a necessary evil for fighters, taking the time for interviews and TV appearances does interfere with training and recovery but is also essential to generate interest in an upcoming contest. Galahad knows and accepts this but feels that his old rival has disrupted his preparations excessively with such commitments. Warrington was part of the DAZN broadcast team when Galahad defeat James ‘Jazza’ Dickens a month ago. Galahad cannot comprehend why Warrington chose to travel in excess of 200 miles at a pivotal point in camp.
“I think he’s not on it mentally no more,” Galahad said. “I think he’s too busy being bothered with being a celebrity in Leeds and worrying about petty stuff like that than actually sitting down and thinking about what he’s got to do for this fight. Realistically, he’s got the biggest fight of his life and he’s coming down to Essex to do commentary for me, somebody, in his head, he’s already beat. What did he go there for, what did he have to gain? I’d understand if it wasn’t four weeks before his fight, it makes sense, but not four weeks before the biggest fight of your life.”
Galahad also questions the logic in facing Lara again in such a short period of time, given that there is no title at stake. Of course, British fighters have successfully avenged devastating knockout losses in the recent past. Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte defeated Andy Ruiz and Alexander Povetkin, respectively, having previously been stopped by their opponents. However, Galahad believes there is a crucial difference in the first meeting between Warrington and Lara and the heavyweight fights.
“I don’t understand why he’d take the immediate rematch,” he said. “Everyone goes: ‘AJ and Whyte did it,’ but AJ and Dillian Whyte were both battering their opponents when they got knocked out. Warrington wasn’t even in the fight from the beginning, he was getting battered from the beginning to the end. He was never in the fight. I think the team around him don’t know what they are doing. They might have got him to a certain level, but he didn’t win the fight with me; his best win is a dried-out Lee Selby [W12] at featherweight or a shot Carl Frampton [W12]. Other than that, what’s his best win? Even when he boxed Kiko Martinez [W12], he shouldn’t have won that fight.”
If Warrington is successful tonight, he would receive a high rating from the IBF, which could set up a rematch with Galahad. Lara is currently the sanctioning body’s highest rated contender and Warrington would likely inherit that position. The first fight between the Yorkshire-based fighters was devoid of excitement as their styles failed to gel. Since finding himself on the wrong end of the decision, Galahad has developed a new ethos which has resulted in him becoming more offensively minded. This was evident against Dickens (WRTD11) and Claudio Marrero (WRTD8) and he promises to deliver a similar performance if the pair ever share a ring again. Given that Warrington had previously refused to entertain the possibility of facing Galahad again, it would be understandable if Galahad adopted a similar stance, yet this is not the case. Galahad does not feel he has to set the record straight; he knows he won; he believes his rival is aware of that, too. Galahad’s motivation is altogether simpler.
“Personally, I don’t feel like I need that fight,” he said. “The only reason I would take that fight is because I’d really like to batter him from pillar to post in front of his Leeds fans, and I mean batter him. I believe he knows that. I’d give him a voluntary shot, but we’d have to sit down and discuss figures because I’m the A-side, but he wouldn’t take it. I don’t believe he’s the same mentally after our first fight, if he boxes me again, I believe he won’t be the same physically.”
Main image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.