Sunday, March 03, 2024  |



Mauricio Lara breaks British hearts again, stops Leigh Wood in seven rounds

Leigh Wood (pictured) was stopped by Mauricio Lara in the seventh round of their WBA featherweight title bout. (Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images)
Fighters Network

Mauricio Lara has done it again; he’s travelled to Britain and broken hearts.

The Mexican puncher landed one of the best punches of the year so far, detonating a seventh-round left hook to separate Nottingham’s Leigh Wood from his WBA featherweight title and his senses.

It seemed like the fight might continue after Wood, who went into the fight rated No. 5 by The Ring, made it unsteadily back to his feet but trainer Ben Davison threw in the towel and it was all over, even though Wood had seemed to have run up a big lead on the scorecards.

It was 2021 when Lara, No. 3 in The Ring ratings, burst onto the scene in the UK, stopping unbeaten former IBF titleholder Josh Warrington.

“I made a mistake and I paid for it,” conceded a heartbroken and tearful Wood afterwards.

Promoter Eddie Hearn felt Wood had been “cruising” and Wood had, apart from a rocky second round when Lara looked incredibly dangerous.

Lara made a conservative start but grew into the first round, while Wood – who was cut by the left eye from a headclash in the opener – took it by landing some sharp shots, notably a counter right hand, and by keeping his hands high and not allowing Lara any clear success.

Wood landed a superb long right early in the second session and the crowd sang their support of the Nottingham man but Lara scored with a couple of terrific body shots that seemed to instantly drain Wood. Moments later, Lara crashed home a brutal right hand and Wood looked woozy and was in trouble at the bell.

The Mexican banger was patient in the third. The Nottingham fans were creating an incredible atmosphere but Lara retained his focus, although Wood was able to find the target with accurate piercing right hands.

Lara slotted home a firm right hand and left hook to open the fourth but Wood landed a long right that steadied Lara’s legs and there were some gritty exchanges as they battled for superiority.

The hard-hitting exchanges continued into the fifth. Lara looked hurt by a body shot and a strong left hook nearly knocked his mouthpiece out towards the end of a hard and unforgiving round.

The blood was pouring down Wood’s left cheek and Wood urged his Nottingham support to get behind him at the start of Round Six and for the majority of the session, Wood boxed well, moving smoothly, peppering Lara with occasional right hands and firing to the body.

The gap between the two was growing but with around 20 seconds left in the round, they both threw left hooks. Lara’s thudded home hardest. Wood hurtled backwards, looking up at the lights, and although he rose he did so unsteadily. Michael Alexander asked Wood to show he could defend himself and Wood raised his hands. Wood appeared groggy and trainer Ben Davison threw surrendered his charge. Wood complained bitterly and perhaps he could have seen out the final seconds and recovered between rounds, or maybe one more punch would have changed the trajectory of his life and not just his career, so let’s not complain about a premature stoppage. It came at 2-54 of the seventh.

Hearn said there’s a rematch clause and they could do this one again.

Hopes are high for the future of British super-lightweight champion Dalton Smith, who posted a workmanlike points win over brave Billy Allington.

Smith, who also got 12 rounds under his belt last time out against Kaisee Benjamin, was patient and composed in the opening session and although Smith predicted Allington would be aggressive, neither were busy in the second.

Things opened up a little in a scrappy third and Smith started to find his stride in the fourth, rattling in some big right hands as Allington became ragged. Allington was continuously plucky and while he made Smith work, he did not have the power to put the Sheffield prospect on the back foot. By the eighth, Allington had trouble keeping Smith off him. Allington shipped some heavy shots, some solid uppercuts and he was dropped by a left hook-left uppercut as Smith buzzed forwards.

The favourite was cut by the left eye in the ninth but still in control, landing a jarring left that shook an off balance Allington to his boots but Smith picked up a stern warning for slamming Allington to the ground over his shoulder at the start of the 10th. There was no real sign that Allington was going to be subdued going into the last round and he was still in there pitching at the final bell. Smith retained his Lonsdale Belt by margins of 120-107 and two cards of 119-108.

Smith, trained by his father Grant, is 14-0. Allington is now 10-2-4.

Irish southpaw lightweight contender Gary Cully was too good for New York-based Puerto Rican Wilfredo Flores, winning inside two rounds.

Flores was cut by the right eye in the first round and Cully was nailing him with straight left hands almost at will, causing Flores to drop in the second before referee Howard Foster intervened after 1-52.

Cruiserweight prospect Cheavon Clarke is now 5-0 after an engaging win over California-based Panamanian Israel Duffus. Duffus was game and courageous but was dropped twice in the sixth, again in the seventh and once more in the 10th and final session. Duffus is now 20-9.

There was a shock on the undercard when Gamal Yafai suffered a punishing 10-round points loss to Argentine Diego Alberto Ruiz. Gamal was down in the second, third and 10th rounds and lost on the cards by scores of 98-89, 97-91 and 97-90. Yafai is now 19-3, Ruiz improves to 24-6-1.