The Weekender

World champion Leigh Wood and challenger Mauricio Lara front up.

Nottingham, England is a sports mad city. It has venues for and hosts Premier League soccer, Test match cricket, and is also home to the National Water Sports Centre.  It’s a hard city, situated in the east Midlands, it has a tough underbelly and is a breeding ground for fighters. When they have one, or some of their own to support, they sure as hell get behind them.

In recent years it’s been rare for the city to host world championship fights. This writer though recalls the famous night of 26 May 2012, when local hero and soon to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHoF) Carl Froch, fought Canada’s Lucian Bute for the IBF world super-middleweight title.

Billed as ‘No Easy Way Out’ the Nottingham Arena was aptly a bearpit of intensity and atmosphere that night, which then champion and previously undefeated Bute just couldn’t deal with. Froch, backed by his rabid supporters and ‘The Cobra’s’ stone-like fists, simply overwhelmed Bute and the Canadian-Romanian would never be the same again.

Pre-fight, Froch was perceived to be in too deep with heavy hitting Bute. In five incredible rounds Froch overwhelmed his opponent and was famously crowned the new champion on an emotional night.

Tonight (Feb 18), in the same arena, and ironically also on a Matchroom Boxing promotion, local man Leigh Wood (26-2, 16 KO’s) defends his WBA world featherweight title (126lbs/9st) for the second time against tough Mexican puncher Mauricio Lara (25-2-1, 18 KO’s). It’s a contest between two excellent fighters that promises much, more than likely an intense battle with multiple knockdowns.

Wood, The Ring boxing magazine #6 beat Irishman Michael Conlan last time out in their 2022 Fight of the Year in March by eleventh round stoppage in a barnstormer. If Saturday’s fight is half as good we’re in for a treat.

At 34 years old, Wood is now facing a man ten years younger and with a big knockout percentage. He won his title in July 2021 by unanimously outpointing good Chinese featherweight Xu Can.

Lara, by comparison The Ring #4, surprisingly knocked out former IBF champion Josh Warrington in London in February 2021. A hastily arranged rematch in Leeds that September was adjudged a technical draw due to a cut from an accidental clash of heads. He was subsequently stripped of the IBF title due to inactivity. The Mexican is now seeking redemption by his potential winning of the WBA crown tonight.

The much anticipated contest also marks nearly 38 years from Irish hero Barry McGuigan dramatically defeating Panamanian legend Eusebio Pedroza for the same title in London, England. One that still holds a number of viewing records as it was broadcast live on BBC TV in a peaktime Saturday night slot. Some contest and event to live up to.

So, what can we expect tonight ?

Both men have been talking up a good performance and their victory coming in. Lara seemingly getting under the champion’s skin. Both fighters weighed in 126lbs (9st) on the limit at yesterday’s weigh-in which went without further incident.

The challenger’s greater power on record and being considerably younger is the clear favourite with the oddsmakers.  Wood, although closer to the end of his career than beginning is tough, as he undoubtedly showed against Conlan, rising from a knockdown to be victorious in a firefight. It ending in a twelve round stoppage of the Irishman. He holds more experience, is rugged and has a noticeable height advantage.

Lara still has something to prove that he truly belongs a this level, much of his status being gained from the first Warrington fight.  We expect it to be a gruelling fight with knockdowns, but on the night the size of Wood backed on vociferously by this local fanbase to prevail, and thus making a second successful defence of his title to set up a box office return further down the line with Conlan.

It’s sure to be some fight and the atmosphere electric, which will transfer well to those watching at home on the DAZN streaming site.

Last night at London’s famous York Hall, Bethnal Green on a Queensberry promotion rising British heavyweight David Adeleye (11-0,10 KO’s) scored an impressive technical knockout of previously undefeated Ukrainian Dmytro Bezus. The stoppage came at 1:38 of the second round after the 26 year old Brit had dropped his 6ft 6″ opponent in the first with a straight right jab. The finish was an impressive right hook to the body followed by left hook that flattened the Ukrainian giant before the referee stepped in. Adeleye who has recently been training in Florida, USA is starting to look the real deal and adds to the strong heavyweight mix in the UK.

In a night of good stoppage wins there was also a solid victory for unbeaten British lightweight Mark Chamberlain and junior-welterweight Henry Turner. The former halting ex-European featherweight champion Vairo Lenti impressively to go to 12 wins.

Finally, enjoy tonight’s DAZN world title broadcast from Nottingham which should be a real humdinger.

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