Leigh Wood put in a measured performance against an out-of-sorts Mauricio Lara in Manchester to regain the WBA Featherweight World title.
There was drama on the scales that gave an already dangerous fight even more risk. Lara missed the weight by 4lbs after being forbidden by the British Boxing Board of Control to undertake what they deemed as a dangerous cut.
After calls for cancellation were ignored, many fans would be watching through their fingers as Wood tried to avenge a stoppage loss that took place just 90 days ago to a substantially heavier man.
It also meant that only the Brit was eligible to walk out of the ring as champion. A win for Lara meant the title, which was his 24 hours ago, would remain vacant.
The first was a tentative round with nothing much of note. Lara looked comfortable to wait for his counters, and Wood sent out some range-finding jabs to the body.
In the second, Wood was caught by a shot but there was no follow up as a tangle straight after caused Lara to fall and stop the action. The challenger took back momentum with a big uppercut and left hook. Lara seemed happy to take them and wait for his opportunity.
He wouldn’t get it though – another uppercut from Wood knocked him down legitimately this time. He made the count and came out swinging, perhaps more dangerous than ever.
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) May 27, 2023
A big clash of heads caused by Lara to start the third, but Wood seemed okay to continue. There was a short-lived urgency on the part of the Mexican as if he took the knockdown as a personal offence. Wood was playing it smart though, landing well and, more importantly, getting out the road after.
Good body work from Lara punctuated the fourth, but Wood continued to follow the two words of advice given to him by Ben Davison – patience and defence. Despite that, he returned to the corner bloodied.
Wood’s feinting in the fifth worked well, and he was making Lara miss big at the start of the round. His left hook started to find a home towards the end, though, opening the cut back up on Wood’s eye.
The Nottingham man worked in and out in the sixth, circling Lara and scoring points. A very slow round for the Mexican and that was a pattern that would continue. ‘Leigh-thal’ took the seventh, surpassing his effort from the first fight and likely exorcising some demons as he did it.
Good defensive work from Wood in the eighth saw Lara enter the stages of desperately needing to show something more. His short spurts were too sparse and allowing his opponent to rack up the rounds at this stage. The ninth was more of the same, Wood’s jab doing the work for him as the Mexican simply didn’t engage enough.
After landing a right hand in the tenth, Wood took one back as a reminder to play it smart and take it the distance – there was no benefit of engaging with a big puncher at this stage.
For the first time in his career, Lara heard the bell for an eleventh round. It was lethargic stuff – was the weight the issue? Had he celebrated the win in February a little too much? Now that the belt wasn’t on the line, did he simply not care? Whatever the reason, Wood was cruising to victory even despite a spirited ten seconds at the end of the round for Lara.
Lara had a little more urgency in the final round, but Wood landed the eye-catchers, even causing him to stumble at one stage. Unlike their first encounter, it ended with a fizzle not a bang – not that Wood’s team would care at all. He took it on all three scorecards – 118-109, 118-109, 116-111. As they were announced, Wood sported the sombrero Lara had gifted him after their first bout.
A fairytale for Leigh Wood, who – no matter how Lara performed – decided to step in with a man who had as good as put his lights out just three months ago. A champion’s mentality.
Elsewhere on the card, the man many believe should be undisputed super lightweight champion, Jack Catterall, returned to the ring for the first time in fifteen months to face Darragh Foley. He dominated proceedings, knocking Foley down twice to take it on the cards 99-88, 98-89 and 97-90.
Terri Harper outpointed Ivana Habazin to retain her WBA Super Welterweight World title. Habazin proved a good test for Harper, who was fighting one week later than her original date after her previous opponent, Cecilia Braekhus, pulled out on the day with flu.
Super featherweight Aqib Fiaz scraped a 76-75 decision win over eight rounds after being knocked down in the sixth against Romania’s Costin Ion. Danny Ball became the new British welterweight champion after dropping and forcing an eighth round stoppage against Jamie Robinson.