JEFF POWELL: Leigh Wood’s gamble paid off as he regained his WBA featherweight title against Mauricio Lara on Saturday night… he’d be favourite against Josh Warrington but IBF champion Luis Alberto Lopez could present a tougher challenge
- Leigh Wood regained his WBA featherweight title after bating Mauricio Lara
- It came in a rematch just three months after Lara had flattened the Brit
- Wood agreed to the bout even after Lara scaled over the featherweight limit
In casino parlance Leigh Wood went all in by risking an immediate rematch against Mauricio Lara and going ahead with Saturday night’s world title fight even though the man who flattened him three months earlier had banked extra chips by scaling way over the featherweight limit.
Yowza, yowza, yowza. He hit the jackpot.
Wood’s immediate prize for out-foxing as well as out-boxing Lara in a delighted Manchester Arena is a choice between living his dream by fighting in Nottingham Forest’s City Ground or bidding for legendary status in a championship unification battle against an even more dangerous Mexican.
Hopefully both in his next two outings.
Promoter Eddie Hearn has earmarked Wood’s home-town football stadium for a Brit-bash with Josh Warrington, probably in September.
Leigh Wood regained the WBA Featherweight title by beating Mauricio Lara on Saturday
The rematch was something of a gamble after Lara won their initial fight just three months ago
Meanwhile Luis Alberto Lopez, having blasted the over-reaching Michael Conlan into oblivion in Belfast this same Saturday evening, is vowing to add the rest of the featherweight belts to his IBF title. Wood’s regained WBA crown included, whenever he is ready.
Lopez – having cooly, calmly and systematically set up Conlan for a devastating fifth round uppercut – would be a more threatening opponent than the hyper and ultimately hysterical Lara. That would not intimidate Wood, who has again endorsed his pedigree of willingness to fight anyone out there.
He would be favourite against Warrington, who Lopez beat to claim his IBF title and has developed now into potentially the next No 1 in the featherweight world rankings.
For the Lopez challenge, Wood should be buoyed by his master-class in concentration against Lara. That laser focus eliminated any possibility of the error which had left him open to a single, demolishing blow in February. This Mexican became more and more frustrated as Wood picked him off while staying out of danger.
That turned the drama of their first encounter into a chess-match, even though the one knock-down this time dropped Lara in the second round. Wood was able to build on the fast start to establish an early lead which cushioned him safely thereafter.
The decision was rightfully unanimous, with two of the judges scoring it 118-109 in his favour. That was a tad generous. Wood, given the luxury of protecting a lead, let the odd round slip by his caution and I concurred with the third official’s card of 116-111.
Luis Alberto Lopez defended his IBF title against Michael Conlan in Ireland
Wood is expected to fight Josh Warrington (left) next, but Lopez (right) could mount more of a threat
Lara paid for his cynical ploy of coming in over weight. Not only in being stripped of his title after the weigh-in and seeing a portion of his fine handed over to Wood. His irritation was compounded by the increasing realisation that the extra pounds, instead of adding to his punching power, served only to slow him down.
Having manically congratulated Wood at the start of the final round, Lara stormed out of the ring as soon as the result was announced. Gesturing angrily and somewhat obscenely at the cheering crowd as he went. Not as pretty a sight as Wood’s educated performance.
The fighting pride of Nottingham has made his name with the wider boxing public.
More will be expected of him now. But first, as he takes a respite, I suggest he does so by taking a trip to Las Vegas. While he’s hot.