This Saturday, Leigh Wood squares off against Mauricio Lara at the Nottingham Arena, streaming live on DAZN. We’ve seen a few upsets thus far in 2023. From Liam Smith to last week O’Shaquie Foster, who technically was still a very minor underdog against Rey Vargas even as the odds shrunk the week of the fight. Which begs the question, do the oddsmakers have it right slating Leigh Wood as a clear underdog?
When I started writing this preview and predictions article on Wednesday afternoon, Wood was +200 and above. Heading into Saturday’s main event in Nottingham, England, it will be interesting to see if that number moved down.
Coming off back-to-back 12th round TKO’s Leigh Wood takes on a difficult challenge as the new official WBA 126-pound champion. (Until the WBA comes up with a reason to make another belt down the line) And back-to-back bouts, Leigh Wood was not the favored, so it should come as no surprise why Lara is a comfortable favorite. Heading into the fight with Can Xu, Wood lost a majority-decision to James Dickens. His only other blemish was a TKO-loss to then-unbeaten prospect Gavin McDonnell in Leigh’s 12th pro fight. But all that is in the past, and in order for Leigh Wood to earn his full respect, he must pull another rabbit out of his hat.
Focusing on the Michael Conlan victory for too long can mislead you to an extent. No doubt a candidate for fight of the year, Conlan controlled the first part of the fight for the most part. Scoring a knockdown from a left hand and attacking the body or potshots to the head had Wood hurt a round after the knockdown. As the fight wore on, the action began to take place in close quarters, and Wood’s short punches started to find a home. Scoring a knockdown in the 11th and eventually winning via stoppage in the 12th made for one of the more dramatic finishes in recent years.
Conlan, at times, brought pressure and dug to the body with heavy shots, but he was also moving way more on the outside than Mauricio Lara will. Can Xu makes for a little better example of a pressure fighter he’ll be facing on Saturday? In that matchup, Wood jabbed early in the fight, either to land or measure with it. It was clear to see Wood was setting up his right hand, at times smartly attempting to move Xu’s gloves to create openings. Punching on the move, including uppercuts, was really effective for Wood to keep Can Xu off-balance. Circling and pivoting while landing punches will be key for Wood facing a stalker like Lara. Not being a stationary target is a must for Wood, but he does have a bad habit of keeping his hands low.
Let’s see how successful Wood is in using his right hand to help shield his face from incoming bombs, as we’ve seen him do instead of a more traditional two-handed guard. As much as boxing folks don’t like to hear this, a clinch-and-turn method of slowing down Mauricio is a very crafty tactic as long as he doesn’t do it excessively. Can Xu had success with the jab, right hands, and uppercuts? Funny thing is that’s exactly what he was getting peppered with by Leigh Wood. Mauricio does get hit a lot, that’s for sure, so we will see if he can take Leigh’s power the whole fight. Lack of defense aside, Mauricio Lara throws an abundance of punches in the form of overhand rights and left hooks to the head/body.
Two years ago, not many folks thought Lara would be a legit challenger, let alone taking Josh Warrington’s ‘O’ in brutal fashion. And to be fair, we didn’t really get any clarity in the rematch ending in a draw due to an early cut stopped from the advice of the ringside doctor. However long this scrap lasts, best believe it will be a war of attrition. Much like Conlan did, this boxing podcast calls for a fast start and a bunch of bodywork from Mauricio. The difference is Lara is more cut out for this type of back-and-forth brawl than Conlan was, in my humble opinion. It will be up to Leigh Wood to weather the storm that’s surely coming. Will he be able to withstand that amount of punishment? Turning the tide will be the only path to victory, as he did versus Michael Conlan. Admittedly on the fence even while finishing up this article; regardless, it’s worth taking a flyer out on the underdog Wood, who will be in front of a biased 8,000 fans cheering him on. Age will play a factor in a rough and tumble fight like this, and Mauricio Lara is only 24, to Leigh Wood’s 34.
My Official Prediction is Mauricio Lara by 8th round knockout.
Side Note: Boxing on DAZN this Saturday also features Luis Nery vs. Azat Hovhannisyan headlining a Golden Boy Promotions card.
Written by Chris Carlson, Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio