Mauricio Lara vs Leigh Wood: Previewing an early FOTY in the making

Mauricio Lara and Leigh Wood are on a collision course for the WBA Featherweight Title tonight in Nottingham, England. This fight is a slugfest on paper and despite an underwhelming event calendar, this bout is cannot miss action in a year of interesting fights so far. In 2023 we have seen Artur Beterbiev behind on the cards score a technical knockout of Anthony Yarde and Emmanuel Navarrete come off the canvas to knockout Liam Wilson. Wood and Lara are two of the more exciting boxers to emerge during COVID and are scheduled to meet tonight at Nottingham Arena on the streaming service DAZN. Both men bring knockout power and a track record of exciting fights into this featherweight title fight in an interesting clash of styles.

Mauricio Lara in only twenty-four years old but he came out of obscurity in 2021 to drop and knockout undefeated Josh Warrington. Lara of Mexico is 25-2-1 with 16 KO’s and prior to that victory had fought his entire career in his home country minus a bout in Argentina and was not expected to be a threat to Warrington. Warrington was 30-0 and the former IBF Champion who saw a unification clash with WBA Champion Xu Can fall through. He vacated his title to avoid a mandated challenge and fought Lara to stay busy. Lara flipped the script when he dropped Warrington in the fourth round in Wembley Arena in the United Kingdom. The home town crowd fell silent when a brutal left hook dropped Warrington who was down for several minutes after the knockout and required oxygen. Since the surprise victory Lara has scored a pair of third round knockouts and a no contest in a rematch with Warrington after their heads came together and caused a cut. Lara has developed a reputation as a heavy handed puncher but has not been able to secure a win over another elite boxer in the division. Unfortunately, the clash of heads robbed fans of a chance to see if Lara could repeat his breakout victory however he has definitely earned his reputation as a viscous puncher.

Leigh Wood at thirty-four will have his second defense of his WBA title in his backyard off of the two biggest wins of his career. Last March Wood came off the canvas in the opening round to knockout Michael Conlan in the final round of a great fight at Nottingham Arena. A left hand appeared to knock Wood out but he miraculously climbed back to his feet and weathered some early danger. Needing a big twelfth round, Wood knocked Conlan out has his unconscious opponent fell through the ropes. Wood in 2021 got the Can fight that Warrington missed out on and made the most of the opportunity by dropping the Chinese WBA Titlist and closing the show before the final bell. Wood was in total control and had a great performance. Wood is a fighter with vulnerabilities but is dangerous deep into fights and has displayed tremendous heart and conditioning to earn and defend his championship.

This match has everything a fight fan can ask for ahead of the opening bell and is a difficult contest to predict. Wisdom would suggest that Wood should try to box Lara at a distance and negate the infighting and punching power but that is easier said than done. Both men are the same height and have the same reach so neither is more suited from range as they can both land from the same distance. Despite Lara being a brawling type of fighter, Wood is not an out boxer and does apply pressure and will fight on the inside. He was the aggressor in his biggest fights an will be there to be hit by left hands. The left hook is the biggest punch from Lara but he does have power in both hands. Lara and Wood have each been knocked out one time in their career and Lara was hurt badly to the body against Emilio Sanchez and Wood was nearly knocked out versus Conlan. Both men carry their punching power deep into fights with Lara knocking Warrington out in the ninth and Wood’s best victories coming in the twelfth round.

As far as experience, both men have been in twenty-eight professional fights with Wood having the advantage in rounds. Wood has fought 144 professional rounds to Lara’s 118 and Wood has seen the tenth round five times to Lara’s one. Wood unquestionably has the homefield advantage in Nottingham but Lara has fought in enemy territory before and came out on top. This is not an easy match up to predict as both are strong and hard punching but have shown vulnerabilities. According to CBS Sports Wood is +200 favorite with Lara -240 underdog which underlines the even nature of this match up.

My Prediction for this fight is a gritty decision victory for Wood. I like Wood’s experience and versatility but worry about his vulnerability to punches. Conlan is not a KO artist and nearly got the job done but he also has a much different style and approach. Conlan is a counter puncher and a mobile fighter, Lara is not. Lara is however a much harder puncher and if he can get Wood in the same danger that Conlan did I expect Lara to close the show. Lara is a fighter that I enjoy watching and have covered over the past few years and want him to win. I am just not sure of his ability at the world level given his smaller sample size of experience. The Warrington rematch would really have given fans a better idea of what Lara was capable of but it ended in the second round from an accidental cut. Warrington was more defensively responsible and negated a lot of Lara’s offense but Mauricio was coming on when the blood began to flow. Hopefully this fight lives up to the hype and follows tradition of UK vs Mexico in featherweight title fights with Oscar Valdez winning a war against Lee Selby or Marco Antonio Barrera scoring a career performance over Naseem Hamed.

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