THERE will be just 98 days and 83 miles between Mauricio Lara’s crushing knockout of Leigh Wood and the Nottingham man’s risky yet admirable crack at redemption this weekend.
It was February 18 when the Mexican ‘Bronco’ left-hooked a hole in Wood’s until-then watertight gameplan of boxing, moving and winning on the cards. The Nottingham man swallowed the shot at the same time he landed one of his own but instantly dropped to the canvas.
He was up in time to beat the count but his coach Ben Davison threw in the towel to end the contest and hand ‘Leigh-thal’ the third defeat of his career.
After a stoppage defeat like that, there are usually two schools of thought: get straight back on the horse, or bucking Bronco as it were, and attempt to put it right as quickly as possible. Or go away, rebuild your confidence, and attempt to exact revenge at some point later down the line.
Given the nature of this defeat, many thought it may be wise for Wood to do the latter, particularly his promoter Eddie Hearn who had suggested Lara face Josh Warrington this time instead. But for the 34-year-old from Gedling, there was no time to waste. So, three months and one week down the line, they go again, live on DAZN.
The Manchester Arena, as opposed to the Nottingham one, is the venue, which suggests Hearn had expected Leeds favourite Warrington to headline. Lara, who is still only 25 and who holds inside-distance victories over Britain’s two leading featherweights, arrives in Manchester as world numero uno.
Wood insists he knows what adjustments he needs to make and that this rematch will be more like Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz than David Price-Tony Thompson. Even so, it is almost impossible to pick against Lara getting it right once more. As the old adage goes, Wood will have to be perfect for 36 minutes but noted puncher Lara only has to be perfect for one second on Saturday night.
As always, after a defeat like that, there are question marks around mental scarring. Wood insists there is none and rather the loss has lit a fire beneath him.
“My confidence is not dented from what happened,” he said. “I know what happened and why. I make adjustments every time I win, lose or draw. I come back a better fighter and learn from the things I did wrong.
“For example I lost the British title in my first attempt but in the second I made sure I didn’t. There is always something new to learn, you’re not done learning in boxing.”
But what will such a win have done for Lara’s confidence too? This will be a long 12 rounds for Wood. It is not beyond him to box his way to a decision but Lara has the tools to claim a second successive stoppage here.
In the chief support, local light-welterweight Jack Catterall fights for the first time since signing a long-term deal with Matchroom and takes on Australia-based Irishman Darragh Foley. Catterall, who still feels wronged by his defeat to Josh Taylor, is hoping to use this new platform to emerge as the division’s No.1 but the 22-4-1 Foley will come to win having upset Robbie Davies Jnr in Liverpool in March.
The Chorley man wants revenge over Taylor, who handed him the only defeat on his 26-1 (13) record, and will be keeping a close eye on proceedings in New York when the Scot takes on Teofimo Lopez at Madison Square Garden on June 10. But none of that will matter unless he does the job on Saturday – and he should. Catterall wide decision is the pick.
“Jack Catterall is another signing that we are massively excited about,” Hearn said. “He should arguably be the reigning undisputed super-lightweight world champion following his brilliant performance against Josh Taylor in February 2022. Jack is itching to get back into the ring following a layoff that was out of his control and there are some big fights to make for him in the competitive 140lbs division.”
A reasonable women’s fight has also landed on the card after Cecilia Braekhus fell ill in Dublin at the weekend. The Norwegian was supposed to box Terri Harper there but the Yorkshire light-middleweight will now face 21-4 (7) Ivana Habzin over 10-twos in Manchester instead.
It should be reasonably plain sailing for Harper against an opponent who has boxed only once since January 2020, when she lost on points to Claressa Shields. A shut-out win for Harper is not out of the question.
There is an interesting clash for the vacant English welterweight title as Danny Ball takes on Jamie Robinson over 10 rounds. Ball is rebuilding since his brutal stoppage defeat to Ekow Essowman for the British title in 2021 when he suffered a double jaw fracture. But he returned with two wins in 2022 to set up this clash with Robinson.
The 31-year-old ‘Ginger Rocket’ has better momentum than Ball having won four six-rounders since he lost to Billy Allington for this belt in February last year. But Ball should have enough to nick a close one here.
There are also run-outs for 11-0 pair Aqib Fiaz and Campbell Hatton, who take on Costin Ion and Michal Bulik respectively. Elsewhere, Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Aaron Bowen goes again after enjoying a successful professional debut on the initial Wood-Lara card in Nottingham. The Coventry man’s pro bow was scheduled for six but he ended it in just 95 seconds and he will be hopeful for another explosive performance here.
And there is also a debutant with a familiar surname on the undercard as William Crolla boxes over four rounds early on the night. The Manchester man is the brother of city favourite Anthony, who headlined this very arena against the likes of Jorge Linares, Ricky Burns and Ismael Barroso during a memorable career at lightweight.