Mauricio Lara Defends His WBA Featherweight Title Against Leigh Wood On Saturday
Mauricio Lara came from behind on the scorecards to dramatically stop Leigh Wood in their first encounter in February to win the WBA Featherweight Title at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.
‘Leightal’ seemed to be in complete control of the bout through 6 rounds, with Lara only winning the 2nd, in which he shook Wood badly. All was going well for Wood, until the last minute of the 7th. The two featherweight warriors traded left hooks, and Lara’s landed far cleaner with Wood loading up on the punch giving away speed.
Wood was put down badly, and despite him getting to his feet at the count of 8, his trainer Ben Davison controversially threw in the towel – a move that was much debated immediately after but seems to have become more popular as hours passed.
Just three months on, Wood (26-3 16 KOs) will get another chance at his world title as he battles Mexican Lara (26-2-1, 19 KOs) this Saturday, May 27 at the 20,000-capacity AO Arena in Manchester, England live on DAZN. The rematch between Lara and Wood is set to be an explosive affair, with a knockout almost guaranteed
Who Is Next For The Winner?
The likely next opponent for the winner of Saturday’s bout has been confirmed. The WBA have installed 11-0 Uzbek KO artist Otabek Kholmatov as the mandatory challenger, and the winner must defend against him to keep the title.
Kholmatov won a final eliminator against the then 33-0-1 Thomas Patrick Ward in March, in Newcastle on the undercard of Ohara Davies vs Lewis Ritson. Kholmatov stopped the local favourite in 5 rounds, having the Durham man down 3 times in the process. The 24-year-old will look to seize his opportunity and shake up the 126lbs division.
Leeds’ Josh Warrington (31-2-1, 8 KOs), a former two-time IBF world champion, will also be in the mix for the winner but it will be almost impossible to avoid facing Kholmatov next for either Wood/Lara.
Another alternative which has been mentioned is the winner of Saturday’s fight vacating the title so Kholmatov can face Matchroom-promoted Ray Ford for the vacant belt with the winners of the Wood/Lara/Warrington triangle and Kholmatov/Ford bout facing each other.
Wood won the WBA Regular title in July 2021, stopping Can Xu in the 12th, and made one defence in a fight of the year contender against Mick Conlan in March 2022. He was elevated to full WBA champion in early 2023 after Leo Santa Cruz was stripped of the full title. Wood lost the title in his first defence of the full title against Lara.
Lara shook up the featherweight division in 2021, by brutally stopping former IBF champion Josh Warrington in 9 rounds in London. Lara rematched the Leeds Warrior seven months later, however, the bout ended in a technical draw, as Lara suffered a horrific cut in the 2nd due to a Warrington headbutt. Since then Lara reeled off two impressive KO wins, before becoming world champion earlier this year against Wood.
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