It’s a thrilling-looking main event at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham this Saturday evening, as Leigh Wood takes on a real acid test, defending his WBA featherweight world title for a second time against Mexican banger, Mauricio Lara.
Matchroom promote Wood vs Lara, while DAZN televise the card live worldwide.
Wood (26-2, 16 KOs) has enjoyed a swift rise to the top after hanging around mainly at domestic level until 2021.
After taking the vacant British belt with a ninth round stoppage of Reece Mould in February 2021, five months later Wood was selected by Can Xu for what was meant to be a tune-up for the Chinese WBA ‘regular’ champion to take on Josh Warrington.
‘Leigh-thal’ didn’t read the script, and stopped Xu in the final round at the Matchroom back garden to become world champion.
His first defence wasn’t without incident, and in a fight of the year, with the 34-year-old down in the opener and behind on all cards, he flattened Michael Conlan in the last round to take victory.
The Gedling man was upgraded from ‘regular’ ruler to the only WBA holder in December after previous ‘super’ champion, Leo Santa Cruz relinquished the belt.
He now defends against dangerman Lara (25-2-1, 18 KOs) in a fight moved from last September due to a bicep injury suffered by Wood.
The Mexican was unheralded and largely unknown before coming to England in February 2021 and ruining Josh Warrington in nine brutal rounds.
A rematch took place seven months later, but the clash was curtailed after two rounds due to a nasty cut suffered by the visitor, and a technical draw was ruled.
The 24-year-old fought twice in 2022, scoring two third round stoppages, the last a third round knockout of Jose Sanmartin in Mexico in October.
Victory for either man should lead to a meeting with Josh Warrington in the summer.
Prediction: Lara begins the favourite here, but his crude style could well play into the hands of Wood, who has a tremendous engine. I think as long as Wood can negotiate a torrid first few rounds, he can warm into the fight, and I back him to come out on top late, or on the scorecards.
Smith defends British belt against Allington
A British title fight heads the preliminaries, as hot prospect Dalton Smith defends his Lonsdale Belt at super lightweight for a second time, with Billy Allington his latest challenger.
Smith (13-0, 10 KOs) won the vacant belt in August last year with a sixth round stoppage of Sam O’Maison, and defended in a tougher than expected points win against Kaisee Benjamin in November.
Allington (10-1-4) isn’t a noted puncher, and has four draws on his slate in 15 outings.
The Surrey native was held to a six round draw by Ben Fields, 10-12-3 at the time, in his last contest in November.
Prediction: Smith should retain inside the distance.
Cully clashes with Flores
Gary Cully is an Irishman touted for big things, and ‘The Diva’ hopes to secure a slot on the big Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano rematch bill in May, with a win in his lightweight contest with Wilfredo Flores, set for ten.
Cully (15-0, 9 KOs) made his Matchroom debut in March last year and halted the respected former world champion, Miguel Vazquez in five, and rounded off 2022 with a one round blowout of Jaouad Belmehdi in October.
Flores (10-0-1, 5 KOs) is also unbeaten, and is coming off two ten victories, the last a points success against Victor Betancourt Jr last May.
Prediction: Cully can add to his reputation with a stoppage victory.
Former European champion, Gamal Yafai (19-2, 11 KOs) continues his rebuild after defeat to Jason Cunningham in 2021 with his first bout of 2023, and he should take a clear win on the cards over ten at super bantamweight against Argentina’s Diego Alberto Ruiz (23-6-1, 12 KOs), a man who held Lee McGregor to a draw last year.
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Kieron Conway (18-3-1, 4 KOs) has been matched tough in the last few years, and the Northampton man returns after defeat to Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams in September in what should be a routine points win against Jorge Silva (21-7, 12 KOs) over eight at super middleweight.
2020 GB Olympian, Cheavon Clarke was due to take on Dec Spelman in an interesting eliminator for the English cruiserweight title, but Spelman had to withdraw and retire from boxing althogether, due to a failed brain scan. In steps Israel Duffus (20-8, 17 KOs) in a bout that Clarke (4-0, 4 KOs) should win inside schedule.
KO artist at 20 😮💨 @jdbostan
Fight No.5 on Saturday #WoodLara pic.twitter.com/luXr88Vsxl
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) February 15, 2023
Junaid Bostan (4-0, 4 KOs) can add to his knockout tally with a stoppage win against Peter Kramer (12-7-3, 8 KOs) at super welterweight, and at super bantamweight, Nico Leivars (3-0-1) may need all six rounds to see off unbeaten Spaniard Alberto Motos (2-0).
Sam Maxwell (16-1, 11 KOs) returns after losing by stoppage in a bid for the vacant IBO super lightweight title last time out and the 34-year-old can line-up a rumoured showdown with the aforementioned Dalton Smith by stopping blown-up lightweight Shaun Cooper (13-4), who has been halted three time in four defeats. This one is set for six.
Aaron Bowen makes his eagerly-awaited professional debut, and the middleweight should win his scheduled six rounder inside the distance against Frenchman Mathieu Gomes (5-4, 5 KOs).