There will only be 98 days and 83 miles between Mauricio Lara’s crushing knockout over Leigh Wood and this weekend’s risky but admirable push for redemption.
It was February 18 when the Mexican “Bronco” blew a hole in Wood’s previous plan of boxing, moving around and winning at cards. The Nottingham man swallowed the shot at the same time he landed his own but immediately fell to the canvas.
He was in time to defeat the Earl, but his trainer Ben Davison threw in the towel to end the fight and award “Leigh-thal” his third career loss.
After such a stoppage failure, there are usually two schools of thought: get back on your horse right away, or sort of fight off the Bronco and try to fix it as soon as possible. Or walk away, rebuild your confidence, and try to get revenge at some point later.
Given the nature of this defeat, many believed Wood did the latter, especially his promoter Eddie Hearn who hinted that Lara would face Josh Warrington this time. But for the 34-year-old from Gedling, there was no time to waste. So after three months and a week, they’re going live on DAZN again.
The Manchester Arena, unlike Nottingham, is where Hearn expected Leeds favorite Warrington. Lara, still only 25 years old, with a long-distance win over two of Britain’s top featherweights, arrives in Manchester as the world number uno.
Wood insists he knows what adjustments he needs to make and that the rematch will be more like Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz than David Price vs Tony Thompson. Still, it’s almost impossible to stand up to Larie getting it right again. As the old saying goes, Wood will have to be perfect for 36 minutes, but famed boxer Lara only needs to be perfect for one second on a Saturday night.
As always, after such a defeat, there are question marks around the psychological scars. Wood claims he doesn’t have it, or rather the loss lit a fire under him.
“My confidence hasn’t been shaken by what happened,” he said. “I know what happened and why. I make adjustments every time I win, lose or tie. I will come back a better player and learn from the things I did wrong.
“For example, I lost the British title in the first attempt, but in the second I made sure not to. There’s always something new to learn, you’re not done learning boxing.
But what will such a win do for Lara’s self-confidence as well? It will be a long 12 rounds for Wood. The decision is not beyond his powers, but Lara has the tools to demand a second arrest in a row.
As main support local welterweight Jack Catterall fights for the first time since signing a long-term deal with Matchroom and will face Australian-based Irishman Darragh Foley. Catterall, who still feels hurt by his loss to Josh Taylor, hopes to use this new platform to become No. 1 in the division, but the 22-4-1 Foley prevails after upsetting Robbie Davies Jnr at Liverpool in March.
The man from Chorley wants revenge on Taylor, who gave him the only defeat on his 26-1 (13) record, and will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings in New York when the Scot takes on Teofimo Lopez at Madison Square Garden on June 10. But none of that comes to pass it will matter if he doesn’t get the job done on Saturday – which he should. Catterall’s decision is a choice.
“Jack Catterall is another signing we’re very excited about,” said Hearn. “He should probably become the reigning undisputed super lightweight champion of the world after his outstanding performance against Josh Taylor in February 2022. Jack is looking forward to getting back in the ring after a release he had no control over, with some big fights ahead of him in the competitive 140lb division.
A sensible women’s fight also landed on the card after Cecilia Braekhus fell ill in Dublin over the weekend. The Norwegian was scheduled to box Terri Harper there, but Yorkshire will now face Ivana Habzin 21-4(7) versus 10-twos in Manchester at welterweight.
It should be easy enough for Harper against an opponent who has only boxed once since January 2020 when she lost on points to Claressa Shields. Harper’s win is not out of the question.
An interesting matchup ensues for the vacant England welterweight title as Danny Ball takes on Jamie Robinson over 10 rounds. Ball is rebuilding after a brutal loss to Ekow Essowman for the 2021 British Championship when he suffered a double jaw fracture. But he came back with two wins in 2022 to set up this clash with Robinson.
The 31-year-old “Ginger Rocket” has more momentum than Ball, having won four six-round matches since losing to Billy Allington for the belt last February. But Ball should have enough to steal a loved one here.
There are also run-outs for the 11-0 pairing of Aqib Fiaz and Campbell Hatton, who will face Costin Ion and Michal Bulik respectively. Elsewhere, Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Aaron Bowen is back on his feet after a successful professional debut on Wood-Lara’s first Nottingham card. The Coventry man’s professional nod was scheduled for six o’clock but finished it in just 95 seconds and will be hoping for another explosive performance here.
There’s also a rookie with a familiar name on the card as William Crolla boxing four rounds early into the night. The man from Manchester is the brother of the city’s favorite Anthony, who fought in this arena against Jorge Linares, Ricky Burns and Ismael Barroso during a memorable lightweight career.