Friday, February 23, 2024  |



Leigh Wood ready for whatever Mauricio Lara brings

Photo by Mark Robinson
Fighters Network

Leigh Wood is prepared for a hard night in Nottingham on Saturday, but The Ring’s No. 6 featherweight is confident ahead of his fight with The Ring’s No. 4 Mauricio Lara.

Fight fans are anticipating a shootout, but Wood contends that Lara is not the best opponent he has faced to date.

“No,” Wood, 26-2, replied, when asked. “It depends. Obviously different fighters bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table so if you spin the question round and ask, is he the hardest style for me to fight? No. Is he a harder style for someone like Josh Warrington? Yes. So different styles make different fights. I believe out of the top 10, especially in The Ring, I’ve already beaten one of the most difficult stylistically for me [No 10 Michael Conlan].”

In his last two contests, Wood has defeated pressure fighter Xu Can and then scalped the slick Conlan. Now he fights an aggressive puncher, determined to prove he has the antidote to any style.

“My team identify what I need to do in them fights, and if we do the wrong thing in them fights, you’re not only in for a hard night but you’re going to get beat, especially by the likes of Xu Can, who is relentless, and if you let him get momentum and if you let him keep racking up them shots, you’re in for a hard night and he’ll get you down the stretch,” Wood explained. “So I needed to do what I needed to do to reduce his output, it was important against Michael Conlan to make sure I didn’t stand off and fight his fight and have a chess match with him, because he’s one of the most skilful fighters ever to come out of Ireland. “It’s the same with Mauricio Lara. I can’t afford to stand there exchanging with my chin in the air, giving him momentum, giving him shots to counter and meeting him in the middle of the ring.”

But Wood reckons Lara’s biggest strengths could ultimately lead to his downfall. Wood believes Lara’s aggressiveness could leave him open, and the heavy-handed Wood thinks that’s when he can capitalise.

“I know he’s an explosive puncher,” Wood admitted. “It comes at a cost. A lot of the time, he’s reckless. He puts that much into his punches, if he misses he nearly spins round, but at the same time, if I’d caught [Josh] Warrington with those big shots early in the fight [when Lara first fought Warrington in early 2021], it wouldn’t have gone nine rounds, there’s no way. Although he can be reckless, he can be dangerous, as a whole, he’s got a lot of flaws.”

Lara has won twice – both third round stoppages – since his technical draw with Warrington in their rematch, when an accidental headclash caused an early end to the fight, but Wood has already made headlines this year when his remarkable fight with Conlan was named The Ring’s Fight of the Year for 2022.

“It’s nice,” Wood said of the plaudits that fight has received. “That’s what I wanted to do, when I set out as a kid, when I started boxing was to leave a legacy, make my name, make some history… at the same time, to win Fight of the Year and be the victor… but credit to Michael as well. We didn’t want to lose, we both gave everything on the night and that only puts boxing in a better regard, especially as two weeks before we had the controversy of my stablemate Josh [Taylor]’s fight at the time [with Jack Catterall that was scored controversially in the Scot’s favor]. I thought boxing needed it [and] I’m happy to have come out on top of that fight and given the fans a fight that they can say, ‘You know what? This is why we love boxing.’”

Does that mean Wood wants to be in more Fight of the Year type fights?

“Absolutely not,” he laughed. “[Not] so much where I’m taking shots. I want to get out of boxing with my faculties intact, but to be in a fight where you’ve given everything, that’s what I’m in it for.”