Thursday, June 08, 2023  |



Polished Wood hoping for career best performance in Lara return fight

Photo by Mark Robinson
Fighters Network

Back in February, Leigh Wood was on the wrong end of one of the knockouts of the year, when Mexican banger Mauricio Lara stunned him in front of his hometown fans.

Wood was coming off the back of back-to-bank wins over Xu Can and Michael Conlan, making him one of the major players in the featherweight division.

But after seemingly taking control against Lara, Wood was caught in the seventh round and his world was turned upside down.

The Nottingham man triggered a rematch clause, getting Lara to come back immediately to defend his crown and they meet in Manchester on Saturday (May 27).

Wood has been back in camp with trainer Ben Davison, learning from the moment where things went catastrophically wrong last time.

“I’m never done learning,” Wood admitted. “I’m learning all the time. I’ve got great discipline and I know I need it for this fight. I need to get everything right. I can’t switch off. I can’t have a mental relapse or a mental break here or there. I need to be disciplined, keep doing what I’m doing, what I’ve been drilling and practising and not get carried away if I start landing shots and trying to close the show early. I need to keep doing what I’m doing and you’re going to see that on May 27. You’re going to see a disciplined, polished performance and probably the best yet.”

Wildman Lara, nicknamed Bronco, earned some of the wrong headlines post-fight, spitting at rival Josh Warrington, who was ringside. His impulsivity saw some make Duran-like comparisons, but Wood doesn’t see many similarities.

“He has kind of got that attitude, but at the same time I don’t think anyone’s pushed him back and controlled him like I did,” Wood asserted. “He did run out of ideas. He didn’t find that shot he caught me with, I gave it to him. I triggered him to go, kept my feet there and gave him that shot. He is hot headed, he is probably quite reckless and that’s probably where he’s got a lot of his success from, but at the same time, that was his downfall with me up until that point. He was swinging wild, I was making him miss, controlling him and he hasn’t got a good engine. That’s why he relies on his explosive power, to try and close the show in those moments.”

Of course, Lara-Wood is not the only high-profile featherweight fight happening on the night. In Belfast, Michael Conlan and IBF champion Luis Alberto Lopez clash, but Wood can’t afford to be thinking about that one with his own main event to focus on.

“Not until after my fight,” he said, when asked if he will be thinking about what happens in Belfast. “I’m sure it will be a question I will be asking very quickly after my fight. I’d love that rematch [with Conlan] to happen, but looking at things, I’m sure they’d have a rematch clause [with Lopez], which I’m assuming could tie things up for a little bit. But I’d love that rematch and if we both have a belt, what a massive fight that would be.”
There was some animosity between Wood and Conlan directly after their fight, but the Nottingham man is actually rooting for Conlan to win in Belfast.

“I think Conlan can do it,” Wood said. “I think it’s going to be a hard fight but I think stylistically I’d edge towards Conlan. Lopez is going to be punching over Mick’s head a lot and I think Mick will get him down the stretch, hopefully. It would be nice to see him go on and win a world title. He is a good, quality fighter and he is British, so I’d like to see him win that fight.”

Conlan has called for a featherweight tournament, to work out who is the best in the world. With Wood, Lara, Warrington, Lopez and plenty of others in the mix, the blend of fighters, styles and personalities would result in a can’t miss series of matches.

Wood is certainly open to it happening and throwing his name into the hat.

“That sounds like a really good idea to be honest,” Saturday’s challenger in Manchester added. “I’ve said this for a while. I think there should be more tournaments at every single level. With boxing, the biggest downfall is the fans not getting the fights and people swerve people and promoters keep people away from each other and sometimes they’re not in proper fights for a long time. If you have a tournament set-up at every level of boxing everyone’s got to fight everyone and then they can progress and you also get more chances because you can do a tournament annually. Those tournaments will help create those fights, create the excitement, and help fighters progress faster. Why not?”

One fighter who benefited from a high-profile tournament was super-middleweight great Carl Froch. He was a finalist in Showtime’s Super Six tournament that saw him lose in the final having fought Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler and Arthur Abraham. Next month, Froch will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and he is a fighter Wood has always admired.

“Carl was a massive influence on me and my career, since I was very very young,” Wood said. “He brought his world [amateur] medal to the gym, the same amateur gym [Wood attended] and I’ve seen him box at the Ice Arena in Nottingham the first time he headlined it and it wasn’t very busy to the first time he fought for a world title at the Ice Arena. I’ve had that inspiration on my doorstep, same school, same gym, same area, and then to give me that confidence to go and do it myself. I can’t ask for any more than that. He went on a massive run of fights. Sometimes did it the hard way, like the [Jermain] Taylor fight, but he fully deserves to be there [in the Hall of Fame] and he will be remembered as one of the best British fighters we’ve produced, up there with the top five.”