WBA featherweight champion Leigh Wood is primed for another unforgettable hometown night after his sensational 2022 fight of the year contender against Michael Conlan last March.
The 34-year-old Englishman will face heavy-handed Mexican Mauricio Lara at Nottingham Arena on Saturday, February 18.
Wood charted an unlikely route to become a world champion, while Lara also sprung an unforgettable shock win on U.K. soil to put himself in the title picture.
There have been a few bumps in the road, with Wood and Lara originally slated to meet last September, but fight fans have a mouth-watering prospect to look forward to once again. The Sporting News explains it all.
MORE: Boxing Schedule 2022: Date, division, location for upcoming fights
Why was Leigh Wood vs. Mauricio Lara called off?
On September 13, 2022, Wood's promoter Matchroom Boxing confirmed the fighter had suffered a torn bicep in sparring.
In a later interview, Eddie Hearn said the prognosis for Wood's injury was a six-week lay-off, although he would not require surgery.
This placed a ballpark date of late 2022 or early 2023 for any rearrangement, with Hearn stating that the intention remained to remake the fight with Josh Warrington's one-time conqueror.
Warrington was mentioned as a dance partner for Wood in a potential all-British blockbuster, although he suffered a broken jaw in his brutal seventh-round stoppage of veteran warrior Kiko Martinez two weeks after Wood beat Conlan.
Conlan and Warrington were both back in action in early December, partly explaining Wood vs. Lara being kicked into 2023.
Both men experienced contrasting outings as Conlan stopped former European champion Karim Guerfi in the first round, while Warrington - who was watched from ringside by Wood - dropped a split decision and his title to the tricky Luis Alberto Lopez.
Who is on the Leigh Wood vs. Mauricio Lara undercard?
- Leigh Wood (c) vs. Mauricio Lara, WBA featherweight title
- Dalton Smith (c) vs. Billy Allington, British super lightweight title
- Gamal Yafai vs. Diego Alberto Ruiz, super bantamweight
- Gary Cully vs. Wilfredo Flores, lightweight
How to watch Leigh Wood vs. Mauricio Lara
Wood vs. Lara will be shown live on DAZN.
DAZN subscription prices vary by country. In the UK packages start at £7.99 per month. In the US, DAZN costs $19.99 a month or $99.99 per year.
WATCH ON DAZN: Wood vs. Lara .
Leigh Wood career record, titles won
Wood won the first 11 fights of his professional career before facing Gavin McDonnell for the vacant British super-bantamweight title at Hull Ice Arena in February 2014.
In a topsy-turvy encounter, Wood was dropped in round one but cut McDonnell in the next session. He was ahead in the fight before wilting under a sustained assault from McDonnell, the twin brother of former two-time bantamweight world champion Jamie. He was stopped in the final seconds of round six.
After that setback, he stepped up to featherweight and impressed on a few high-profile undercards in Sheffield, outpointing Josh Wale and knocking out former amateur rival Lee Glover.
Wood dispatched Glover in the second round and did likewise when he faced Abraham Osei Bonsu for the vacant Commonwealth featherweight title in March 2019. He defended the belt once against Ryan Doyle and won the WBO European featherweight strap with a ninth-round stoppage of David Oliver Joyce.
In his next outing, Wood dropped a majority decision to former world title challenger James ‘Jazza’ Dickens, ending a 12-fight win streak in February 2020.
Wood rebounded impressively with a round-nine TKO of the previously unbeaten Reece Mould at Wembley Arena 12 months down the line, but that did little to foreshadow a stunning ascent to world honours.
Boxing at Matchroom HQ as part of the Fight Camp series, Wood out-hustled China’s Can Xu before stopping the WBA champion in the final round.
Remarkably, Wood repeated the trick in an instant classic against Conlan. The home favourite was down and badly hurt in round one but gritted his way back into the contest. Conlan went down in round 11 and was then chillingly dispatched through the ropes as Wood snatched victory. It was Wood's finest moment and moved him to a career record of 26-2 with 16 KOs.
Mauricio Lara career record, titles won
Lara’s career got off to a false start as he dropped a split decision over four debut rounds to the unheralded Julio Carabino.
He then reeled off 11 wins before suffering a first-round KO against Eliot Chavez, a fighter most recently seen on British shores being disqualified for twice punching Harlem Eubank after “break” was called.
Lara strung together another 11 wins against unremarkable opposition and little was expected of him when he was called in as an opponent for Warrington in a behind-closed-doors encounter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Topping the same card where Wood beat Mould, Warrington was dropped by the visitor in round four and battered around the ring until his misery came to an end after another trip to the canvas in round nine.
Warrington cited a lack of atmosphere and adrenaline in mitigation for his first career defeat and sought to right the wrong in an immediate rematch.
Headingley Rugby Stadium in Leeds certainly produced an incredible atmosphere to get the blood pumping, although such a description is perhaps a little too close to the bone given a head clash in round two saw Lara badly injured and the fight called off as a technical decision draw.
In 2022, Lara enjoyed a couple of quickfire wins, blasting out Emilio Sanchez and Jose Sanmartin within three rounds to leave his career record on 25-2-1 with 18 KOs.
Warrington's decision to vacate his IBF belt prior to their first bout means this will be the first time Lara hasfought for a major title. However, he is ranked as the world's leading featherweight by the respected Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.