NOT content with putting his body through the ringer in pursuit of one “Fight of the Year” candidate this year, Nottingham featherweight Leigh Wood will look to do the same again on September 24 when he takes on the equally aggressive Mauricio Lara, it was announced yesterday.
“I maybe have a handful of fights left and I want them to be my biggest,” Wood said. “I want to be tested. I’m filling arenas now and I want to keep that momentum going. Every fight should be a step forward, not backwards. Mauricio Lara is dangerous but high-risk, high-reward. I’m confident I can do what Josh Warrington couldn’t do and get the job done.”
Earlier this year Wood, 26-2 (16), produced one of the most dramatic and chaotic fights of 2022 alongside Michael Conlan, stopping the Irishman in the 12th and final round. He was behind on the scorecards at the time, having been knocked down heavily in the first round, yet Wood, as is his tendency, persevered and refused to give up.
The performance, a thrilling one, earmarked “Leigh-thal” as a can’t-miss fighter and it has set up this, a fight against Lara, a featherweight after his own heart, back in Nottingham (Motorpoint Arena).
“I’m very excited,” said Lara from Mexico. “This is the opportunity that I have worked so hard for and I am not going to miss it. I am aware that Leigh Wood is a great fighter, but no one is going to take away the possibility of me becoming a world champion. I’m going to England for the third time and it’s like I’m fighting at home.”
Lara’s two previous trips to England saw him fight Leeds’ Josh Warrington and, though he never lost, his fortunes were mixed. First time around he famously tore into Warrington and beat him at his own game, dropping him in the fourth round before stopping him in the ninth. The rematch, however, which took place seven months later in September 2021, was an altogether more frustrating affair, with Lara cut over the left eye in round two by an accidental head clash and the fight stopped prematurely (declared a draw) as a result of the injury.
Since then, Lara, 24-2-1 (17), has destroyed Emilio Sanchez in three rounds (back in March this year), though will have been hungry to return to the UK at some point to secure yet another big fight and payday. He now gets one in the shape of a fight against Wood, a man 10 years his senior, on September 24.
Also on Matchroom’s Nottingham card is an intriguing all-British lightweight fight between Yorkshiremen Maxi Hughes, 25-5-2 (5), and Kid Galahad, 28-2 (17).
With plenty of needle between them, this should be a good one, and it is a fight both men will be desperate to win. Galahad, a former IBF belt-holder at featherweight, was of course last seen getting viciously knocked out by Kiko Martinez in November 2021, while Hughes, undefeated since 2019, wants to continue his march towards a world title shot and a life-changing payday.
Speaking with Boxing News last month, Hughes made it clear there is no love lost between him and his next opponent. “There’s a lot of history between Josh (Warrington, Hughes’ gym mate) and Sean (O’Hagan, Hughes’ trainer) and him (Galahad) and Dominic (Ingle),” he said. “Also, there’s the fact he got banned for taking steroids (in 2015, Galahad tested positive for the banned substance stanozolol, an anabolic steroid). I don’t like that.
“The positives are that I’m fighting a former IBF champion who was world champion in his last fight and is a good fighter. I’ll come out of it with a former world champion on my record and it should do me well in terms of my ranking with the IBF. Hopefully a win against him will push me further up and get me closer to fighting for a title.
“But he doesn’t sell and he’s just so negative. I know I can beat him, but I also know it will be a frustrating night’s work. I sparred him years ago and know what he’s like. He starts standing on your feet, grabbing hold, and using dirty tactics.
“I’m well up for it, though. I told my missus, ‘This will be good karma vs bad karma. Good vs evil.’ He takes steroids and cheats and karma got him with Kiko. I’m a good person and karma will be on my side again. It would be nice to ‘Kiko’ him, like.”
Finally, completing the main portion of the September 24 card is a decent women’s super-welterweight fight between Scotland’s Hannah Rankin, the WBA belt-holder at that weight, and England’s Terri Harper.