In a shocking comeback victory, Mauricio Lara (26-2-1, 19 KOs) landed a left hook from nowhere to score a come from behind seventh round knockout victory over WBA featherweight champion Leigh Wood (26-3, 16 KOs) on Saturday night at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, England.
Wood was caught with a left hook from Lara while at the same time throwing his own, and went down like a ton of bricks, landing flat on his back with his head bouncing off the canvas.
When Wood caught to his feet, he stumbled and looked badly hurt. However, by the time Wood turned round, he looked recovered and ready to continue.
Unfortunately for Wood, his trainer Ben Davison tossed in the towel at that exact moment. Not surprisingly, Wood looked upset at his trainer stopping the fight.
The time of the stoppage was at 2:54 of the seventh.
British light welterweight champion Dalton Smith (14-0, 10 KOs) labored to a 12 round unanimous decision win over Billy Allington (10-2-4, 0 KOs) in a painfully boring fight. The scores were 120-107, 119-119-108, and 119-108.
Smith stalked Allington throughout the fight, knocking him down in the eighth round with a left hook, body slamming him in the tenth, and using a lot of roughhouse tactics in frustration at his inability to score a knockout.
In the tenth round, Smith was cut over his left eye and seemed to lose his temper by throwing Allington to the canvas with a pro wrestling move. It’s unclear why the referee failed to penalize him because Allington’s head bounced off the canvas with the wrestling throw.
Lightweight Gary “The Diva” Cully (16-0, 10 KOs) stayed unbeaten tonight by stopping Wilfredo Flores (10-1-1, 5 KOs) by a second round knockout to capture the vacant WBA Intercontinental title.
The 27-year-old Cully twice put Flores down on the seat of his pants in the second round, resulting in the referee stepping in to stop the fight at 1:52 of the round.
Cully looks like the real deal at 135, and he’s ready to face the top tier in the division.
In a one-sided contest, cruiserweight Cheavon Clarke (5-0, 4 KOs) had his way with the heavy-handed journeyman Israel Duffus (20-9, 17 KOs), knocking him down four times en route to a 10 round unanimous decision.
Clarke pressured Duffus constantly, nailing him with huge hooks to the head. In the sixth, Clarke dropped Duffus two times and had him on the verge of a knockout. Somehow, Duffus, 30, made it out of the round.
In the seventh, Clarke was given credit for a knockdown on what appeared to be a slip by Duffus. Clarke, looking exhausted, took the eighth and ninth rounds off before coming on strong to drop Duffus down in the tenth with the final punch he threw in the round.
The scores were 98-88, 98-88, and 98-90. Clarke’s lack of size, defense, and poor work rate could hinder his success at cruiserweight. If possible, he should try dropping to 175, where he won’t be at such a colossal size and power disadvantage.
Diego Ruiz (24-6-1, 12 KOs) may have ended the career of former EBU super bantamweight champion Gamal Yafai (19-3, 11 KOs) tonight, defeating him by a lopsided 10 round unanimous decision in a fight that was total domination by the 28-year-old Argentinian.
Ruiz came into the fight having lost 3 out of his last 4 fights, but he looked like a champion against the shell of the 31-year-old Yafai, dropping the Brit three times in the bout. Yafai was knocked down in rounds 2, 3 & 10.
Ruiz was never able to pour it on to finish Yafai, however, as he lacked the skills and the killer instinct to do what a better fighter would have if they’d been in the same position.
The scores were 98-89, 97-90, and 97-91. Yafai made it easy for Ruiz with the way he was standing in the pocket and lowering his head when he would throw his shots.
Ruiz took advantage of Yafai’s recklessness by hitting him with perfectly timed counters all night. It was a surprise that Yafai was only knocked down three times because he was getting hit clean with Ruiz’s counters almost every time he threw a punch.
For a former amateur star like Yafai, it was surprising at how he would leave himself open so frequently against a fighter that was essentially a ham & egger brought in as a gimme for him to come back from his recent loss to Jason Cunningham.
Preview: Wood’s trainer Ben Davison says he’s created the perfect game plan to defeat Lara (25-2-1, 18 KOs), and he expects him to be “reckless” early on, which will leave him vulnerable.
Interestingly, Davison says Michael Conlan was a more challenging fight for Wood and that Lara is on the same level as Kiko Martinez. One gets the sense from listening to Davison talk that he’s the one that made the decision for Wood to fight Lara. For his sake, you hope he didn’t make a mistake by choosing Lara.
Wood taking risky fight
“This fight ticks all the boxes for what Leigh wanted,” said Ben Davison, the trainer for WBA featherweight champion Leigh Wood, to iFL TV about tonight’s fight against Mauricio Lara.
“Having a game plan set out and knowing how to create scenarios that are going to favor Leigh and how to defuse scenarios that favor Mauricio Lara are what’s going to give him the fight. Leigh Wood by stoppage,” said Davison when asked for a prediction on the Wood vs. Lara fight tonight.
“I’m confident. Leigh is in a good place,” said Davison to iD Boxing. “Yeah, without a doubt. Of course, it’s a very dangerous fight. He’s [Lara] a very dangerous fighter. We know he’s going to be dangerous early on; we’re fully aware of that, but if he comes out winging, starting extremely fast, he’s going to leave himself exposed as well because Leigh Wood is dangerous as well. Let’s not forget that.
“I’m not taking anything away from Mauricio Lara because he’s a top, top fighter, but he got hurt by Emilio Sanchez in the second round [last year in March 2022] to the head and body,” Davison said about Lara’s fight against the big puncher Sanchez.
“He got stopped in the first round by Eliot Chavez [in 2018]. People going on about him [Wood] getting dropped in the first round by Michael Conlan [last year in March]. Michael might not punch as hard as Lara, but he’s a lot smarter, places his attacks, has a lot more variety, disguises them well, and has a good coach that can pick out things that Mick can exploit against his opponents.
“Everybody going on about Mauricio Lara being the boogeyman of the [featherweight] division. Mick Conlan is a better and harder fight than Mauricio Lara,” said Davison, making it sound like Wood is facing Conlan tonight rather than Lara.
Davison: Leigh punches harder than Lara
“Lara might be more dangerous for a certain period of a fight, but overall, Mick Conlan is a harder fight [than Mauricio Lara].The reason we decided to take this fight or choose this fight is that the timing of it is because the City Ground wasn’t available because of the football season.
“The two tickets for the City Ground are obviously Josh Warrington and Michael Conlan. Those are the two tickets. We don’t want to lose one of the two opportunities of going to the City Ground by taking that fight, and in the fight, it had to be at the [Motorpoint] Arena.
“So Leigh said, ‘Let’s get the next best option.’ Mauricio Lara was the next best option in terms of the quality of a fighter and available purse. Look, they’re all dangerous at the world level; they’re all dangerous.
“I guarantee you if you ask Josh Warrington who hits harder, Mauricio Lara or Kiko Martinez, I’ll guarantee you that he’ll say that Kiko Martinez punches harder. They’re all the risk at the top level,” said Davison.
“It’s madness people talking about, ‘It’s a dangerous fight.’ Of course, it’s [Mauricio Lara] is a dangerous fight. It’s world-level boxing. It’s the best fighting the best. Everyone is saying this is the #1 in the division.
“So how can you expect to have the #1 in the division and it not being a risk and being dangerous? It’s madness. I think Leigh will look to create scenarios that favor him. He’s not going to stand there and just exchange with Mauricio Lara. Well, hopefully, because that will obviously favor Maurcio Lara.
“I have no doubt that Leigh is the bigger puncher out of the two,” said Davison about his belief that Wood hits harder than Lara. “That scenario would favor Mauricio Lara. People look back at the Mick Conlan fight. Leigh Wood wasn’t going to stand back and fight off the backfoot against Michael Conlan.
“Leigh is the ultimate professional, and we’ve got a game plan in place. I’m confident that Leigh will stick to because he’s the ultimate professional and always does, and I’m sure we’ll deliver that. Yeah,” said Davison when asked if that game plan would lead to a knockout for Wood against Lara.
“People say, ‘He’s [Wood] going to box.’ You can’t fly around the ring against Mauricio Lara. You’re going to give him momentum after momentum after momentum, and the pace will shoot right up. Like I said, Leigh will create scenarios that will lead to Lara being reckless and Leigh being able to capitalize on those scenarios,” said Davison.
Leigh Wood will have his WBA featherweight title on the line tonight against the hard-hitting challenger Mauricio Lara LIVE on DAZN at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, England. The event kicks off at 2:00 p.m. ET.