Some people, including his promoter, attempted to talk Leigh Wood out of taking an immediate rematch with Mauricio Lara so soon after their first fight.
Eddie Hearn openly discussed a potential third bout between Lara and Josh Warrington after Lara beat Wood by seventh-round technical knockout February 18 to win the WBA featherweight title from him. Matchroom’s promotional plan would’ve guaranteed Wood the Lara-Warrington winner next, but Wood wouldn’t even entertain that idea.
The Nottingham native wanted to prove he simply made a tactical mistake against Lara and could decisively defeat the dangerous Mexican in their second bout. Wood did just that barely three months later by completely outboxing Lara and winning their 12-round rematch by unanimous decision May 27 at AO Arena in Manchester, England.
In less than eight months from the time Lara beat him, Wood will have fought Lara and Warrington. The 35-year-old Wood is listed by most sportsbooks as more than a 2-1 favorite to beat Warrington, a former IBF champ, in a main event DAZN will stream worldwide Saturday night from Utilita Arena Sheffield in Sheffield, England.
Wood (27-3, 16 KOs) is beyond pleased that he decided to come back quickly after Lara (26-3-1, 19 KOs) dropped and stopped him at Motorpoint Arena Nottingham. Wood dropped Lara in the second round of their rematch and won comfortably on all three scorecards (118-109, 118-109, 116-111).
“That’s the best I’ve felt in the Lara rematch,” Wood stated during a press conference Thursday. “Like I said on the night, I could’ve gone back in with Lara 10 minutes later, and I felt like I could’ve won. I knew the mistakes I made. I knew the adjustments I had to make. It was a very frustrating night in Nottingham, packed with my own fans. And yeah, the fast turnaround suited me. And again, you know, I’ve had a little break, a little holiday, a little switch off, straight back in the gym and here we are. It’s come around literally like that.”
The 32-year-old Warrington (31-2-1, 8 KOs) will attempt to become a three-time featherweight champion against Wood. The Leeds native lost his IBF belt for the second time in his last fight, a 12-round match Mexico’s Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) won by majority decision last December 10 at First Direct Arena in Leeds.
Warrington is considered a very live underdog in his fight with Wood, though, because he has beaten Lee Selby, Carl Frampton, Kid Galahad and Kiko Martinez in featherweight championship bouts.
“Josh has had some really good wins,” Wood said, “possibly better than me. … It’s gonna be an electric atmosphere on Saturday night, one I’m expecting to be the best I’ve ever witnessed, especially in my ring walk. Sold more tickets than we’ve ever sold, and so it’s gonna be a great night, definitely one that will go down in history. And talking about history, you know, I wanna be remembered as one of the best featherweights from this country and one of the best fighters from my own city.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.