Leigh Wood has promised to meet Mauricio Lara “in the middle of the ring” and has boldly predicted that their highly anticipated WBA Featherweight World Title clash at the Motorpoint Arena Nottingham this Saturday, shown live worldwide on DAZN (excluding Australia and New Zealand), won’t reach the halfway point.
Nottingham’s ‘Leigh-thal’ (26-2, 16 KOs) returns to the scene of his stunning 12th round knockout win over Ireland’s Michael Conlan last March to put his WBA crown on the line for the second time against a man few have opted to face – Mexico City’s dangerous knockout artist Lara (25-2-1, 18 KOs).
‘Bronco’ arrives on these shores for the third time with a fearsome reputation, having famously wiped-out former IBF Featherweight World Champion Josh Warrington in nine rounds in a sensational upset behind closed doors in February 2021, ending the Leeds fighter’s unbeaten record.
Wood, who picked up multiple Fight of the Year awards for his sensational scrap with Conlan, has accused Lara of making things personal between them following his injury jibes, and the 34-year-old believes he can expose his opponent’s weaknesses on the biggest stage of all.
“From the outside looking in he looks very dangerous,” admitted Wood. “He got that devastating win over Josh Warrington. There’s a lot of things he does well and he is dangerous, but in the same hand there’s a lot of things that he does very poorly. You can’t get away with that at this level with the right fighter.
“He doesn’t have to come looking for me, I’m going to be right in front of him. I’ll meet him in the middle of the ring. When he walks into the ring he’s going to be met with a very hostile crowd. No one is going to walk into Nottingham and walk through me – it’s not going to happen. I can’t see it reaching the halfway point, and I will win by knockout.
“There was never going to be another fight. It was always going to be Mauricio Lara next. He’s said a few things which made it quite personal. He said that I faked my injury and he said that all the English are running away scared.”
Victory on Saturday potentially sets up a dream World Title defence for Gedling’s Wood at the City Ground – home to his beloved Nottingham Forest Football Club. The chance to become the first ever fighter to headline at the famous old stadium gives Wood all of the extra motivation he needs.
“Over the years things change, you don’t always want what you wanted when you started. Some things do stay the same. It was winning the British Title, boxing for and hopefully winning a World Title and the third thing is to fight at the City Ground. Now I’ve just got one more thing to do – win this fight and I believe it’s done.
“The people down at the ground have really got behind me my past few fights. It’s going to be a special atmosphere this fight. It’s going to be even better. Last time it was split with the Nottingham lot and the Irish – this time it’s predominantly going to be the Nottingham fans. They’ll be singing and making lots of noise – it’s going to be lifting.”
Wood vs. Lara headlines Matchroom’s first show of the year in the UK, Sheffield star Dalton Smith (13-0, 10 KOs) makes the second defence of his British Super-Lightweight Title against Billy Allington (10-1-4), Irish Lightweight hope Gary Cully (15-0, 9 KOs) takes on the USA’s Wilfredo Flores (10-0-1, 5 KOs) for the vacant WBA Intercontinental Title, Gravesend Cruiserweight Cheavon Clarke (4-0, 4 KOs) fights late replacement Israel Duffus (20-8, 17 KOs), former European Super-Bantamweight Champion Gamal Yafai (19-2, 11 KOs) begins 2023 with a ten-rounder against Argentina’s Diego Alberto Ruiz (23-6-1, 12 KOs), Northampton’s Kieron Conway (18-3-1, 4 KOs) meets Portugal’s Jorge Silva (21-7, 12 KOs) over eight rounds at Super-Middleweight, Rotherham Super-Welterweight talent Junaid Bostan (4-0, 4 KOs) fights for the third time under the Matchroom banner, popular Mansfield Super-Bantamweight Nico Leivars (3-0-1) squares off against Spain’s Alberto Motos (2-0) over six rounds, Commonwealth Super-Lightweight Champion Sam Maxwell (16-1, 11 KOs) faces Shaun Cooper (13-4) over six rounds and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Aaron Bowen makes his professional debut at Middleweight against Mathieu Gomes (5-4, 5 KOs).
Limited remaining tickets for Wood vs. Lara can be purchased via Stage Front.