In February, Leigh Wood fought six nearly-perfect rounds against Mauricio Lara to take control of his WBA featherweight championship defense. One left hook in Round 7 was all it took for Lara to erase all of Wood's momentum and leave the ring as champion. The pair rematch on Saturday in Manchester, England.
Lara will not be leaving as champion regardless of the result, having been stripped of the title after he missed weight by more than three pounds on Friday. The title will still be on the line for Wood as he attempts to become world champion for a second time.
Wood won the WBA's secondary title in March 2022 with a dramatic 12th-round knockout of Michael Conlan. Conlan had controlled the action throughout the fight before Wood scored a knockdown in Round 11. He then knocked Conlan out of the ring in the final round in a stunning moment.
After Leo Santa Cruz vacated the world title, Wood was elevated to full champion status and clashed with Lara in his first title defense.
Lara hurt Wood in the second round of their first meeting, but Wood recovered and executed a brilliant gameplan, using right hands through Lara's guard while also digging to the body with lead hooks. Lara appeared to be tiring as the fight hit the middle rounds but his power was always a danger for Wood.
Wood and Lara threw left hooks at the same time in Round 7, with Lara's getting their first and putting Wood on the canvas. While Wood beat the count and the referee was ready to allow the fight to continue, Wood's corner threw in the towel to bring the fight to an end with Wood up on all three official scorecards.
The win moved Lara's unbeaten streak to 16 fights. It was also his first opportunity to capture a world title and he made good on it. Unfortunately, his reign was shortlived due to Friday's failure to make weight.
The rematch will also see the Mexican slugger travel to England for the fourth time in his six most recent outings.
Lara vs. Wood 2 fight card, odds
Mauricio Lara (c) -300
Leigh Wood +240
WBA featherweight title
Jack Catterall -1400
Darragh Foley +800
Terri Harper (c) -1000
Ivana Habazin +650
WBA super welterweight title
Wood fought nearly as perfect a fight as he could the first time around and Lara's power still got home to finish the fight. Wood has to now go back out there and find a way to do the whole thing over again while being even better than he was the first time around. That's a mighty big ask against Lara, who has real, legitimate one-punch power.
In the first fight, Wood found and exploited defensive holes and punished Lara's body along the way. That is likely the biggest key if he is going to win the rematch. Wood needs to hammer the body enough that it truly slows Lara down and saps his energy so he isn't dangerous in the back half of the fight, which is especially true if the weight issues are the product of poor conditioning. Of course, that involves dancing through the minefield of engaging with Lara in the early rounds.
Lara also enters the fight knowing he can hurt -- and finish -- Wood, and Wood couldn't really do the same in return. That could lead to a more aggressive approach from Lara in the early rounds and that likely spells disaster for Wood. Pick: Mauricio Lara via TKO4