It was given the big build up and rightly so. Boxing back in a stadium with a full crowd and a truly meaningful fight. Sadly for those in attendance at Headingley in Leeds on Saturday, Mauricio Lara and Josh Warrington had to settle for a technical draw after a clash of heads opened a cut over the Mexican’s eyebrow in the second round.

Back in February, Lara dismantled the former IBF belt holder in nine rounds at Wembley Arena. The return was billed as ‘Repeat or Redeem’ and Warrington was taking a huge chance by stepping back between the ropes to face his Mexican nemesis. Plenty in the Warrington business were sure that this was a bad idea, but no one was going to convince him to face anyone else.

Roared on by his adoring Leeds public, Warrington entered first to the Leeds United anthem ‘Marching on Together’. Many opposing fighters would be put off by the partisan atmosphere. The Kaiser Chiefs blared out over the Headingley speakers, as Leeds predicted a riot. 

Some opponents have been beaten before they got in the ring with Warrington. But Lara just looked as if he was taking a stroll in his sombrero surrounded by mariachi music. Not even having beer poured over him could distract him.

The Mexican was enjoying the experience. Warrington appeared calm in the corner, but the nerves must have been jangling. Everything was resting on this fight. To lose once to Lara was bad. Losing twice was unthinkable and, as Michael Buffer gave his customary ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumble’, Warrington’s career truly hung in the balance.

The duo received the instructions from referee Steve Gray and then it was judgment day for Warrington. Headingley erupted and Warrington took the centre, pumping the jab. Lara remained poised, biding his time, as Warrington landed with a solid right hand. Lara responded and Warrington pushed him back, snapping his head back with a right hand. Warrington took a right and Lara pressed on. It was a promising start for the ‘Leeds Warrior’ but the warning signs were still there.

The home favourite remained cautious in the second and he got through with a good right hand, whilst covering up well as Lara came back. The heads were coming together on the inside, as Warrington barrelled forward. The Mexican now had a small nick over his left eye. A body shot briefly staggered Warrington, who got tangled up in his own feet and Lara was looking menacing. Warrington went with him, but he was playing a dangerous game in these exchanges.

Lara’s nick was now a cut and a bad one at that, so the ringside doctor was brought in to have a look before referee Gray waved it off, resulting in a technical draw. The corners argued across the ring and all the anticipation for this rematch ground to a sudden and unexpected halt. Boos rung out from the crowd who had waited so long for a big night that was brought to an early end by a head clash.

It was a heartbreaking finale for Warrington. He had put it all on the line for this rematch with Lara. But as less than four rounds had taken place with the cut caused, undoubtedly, by a head clash, it is a result he will have to accept. He may also have to accept that he may never get the chance to redeem himself against Mauricio Lara.

The fight was shaping up nicely. Warrington was a different fighter this time around. No stone had been left unturned. But the power advantage was so evident. Lara was getting through and you could see how heavy-handed he was. Unfortunately, we all missed out on what could have been a cracking fight. Sadly, though, that’s boxing.

Trilogy fight, anyone?

Main image: Matthew Pover/Matchroom Boxing.