WOOD BATTLES HARD BUT LETHAL LARA WINS BY KO
Plus, Nery swings big for FOTY contention
As the old boxing adage reminds us, it only takes one punch to turn a fight. You can land every jab, pick every hole and take advantage of every opening, but one lapse in concentration and suddenly you’re staring up at stars. Not in an Oscar Wilde kind of way. In a lights out, senses rewired, waiting for the buzz of a hometown crowd to rally you upright, kind of way.
Leigh Wood wasn’t posting the masterclass performance as described by Ron McIntosh on radio commentary. But he was keeping a dangerous puncher at bay, landing heavy blows of his own and slanting the scorecards in his favour. Roared on by thousands of followers inside the Nottingham Arena last Saturday evening, Wood was half way through the fight and on his way to producing a stellar title-defending display.
Photo credit: Matchoom Sports
That was until he dropped his right hand for a split second too long, leaving his chin open to interrogation. Mauricio Lara did not need a second invitation to put the champion’s punch resistance to the test. One bludgeoning left hook later and Wood was down. Fighting such a devastating finisher, we all knew this might happen.
Despite Lara’s commendable patience or flagging frame (mostly as a result of Wood’s energy sapping torso assaults) the visitor had not ruffled the champion up since a late second round burst of violence. The long jab and overhand right were working nicely. Wood was in a mid-fight flow. Things were moving along with relative calm. But the Mexican storm had not subsided. It was just gathering momentum.
The stoppage was naturally a major talking point. Some thought it was premature and robbed Wood of a chance to recover. The majority reckoned Ben Davison’s intervention with the towel was spot on. At the time I felt that the champion should've been allowed to continue.
Let him see out the round, negotiate a way past the final 10 seconds by grabbing, holding or taking a knee. Survival by any means necessary. For every injury caused by a fight going on too long, there is a miraculous comeback. A Gatti moment that glows in the history books.
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Looking back now, I concede that in this instance perhaps the safety-first crowd were right. As Wood tottered around in his corner after the stoppage, his legs looked decidedly shaky. Sometimes a fighter, inducted through the warrior’s code, needs to be saved from himself.
Since floating on to the domestic scene, first with Billy Joe Saunders and later with Tyson Fury, trainer Ben Davison has had his critics. It appears he intervened on behalf of his stricken fighter rather than to enhance his own reputation.
“Boxercise Ben” as the former personal trainer is affectionately known, claims he did not know there were less than 10 seconds left in the round. His decision to throw in the towel was made purely in the interest of Wood’s longevity.
The Nottingham man will live to fight another day. The option of a Lara return remains on the table as yet another rematch clause has slithered its way in to a contract. The 34-year-old would be better served chasing an all-UK dust-up with Josh Warrington.
Seated at ringside as part of the DAZN announcing crew, Warrington has already mixed it up twice with Lara and with little success on either occasion. Both men will likely step aside and let the wild Bronco (who spat at Josh in a post-fight fit of gross Latino passion) go his own way.
Boxing Asylum: The podcast panel had their say on the big fight night
For all of Lara’s offensive attributes, it would seem that a well skilled fighter with quick feet and a snappy jab would give him fits. Save that predicament for another day. Lara, 24, is now a WBA champion of some description. Who really knows what WBA strap he truly holds, given their myriad of baubles, but there’s no doubting his world level status.
An all-Mexican unification with Luis Alberto Lopez would've been nice. However, the IBF champion is due to face Mick Conlan in Belfast on May 27. Conlan once downed Wood with a powerful left hand. “Leigh-thal” survived that onslaught, showed guts and stamina to work his way back into the contest and score a thrilling late KO over the Irishman.
Last weekend, Wood was offered no chance to recover and retain his title. Between Lara's formidable power and Davison’s compassion, the decision to carry on was taken out of his hands.
LUIS NERY WINS BY KO IN THRILLER
It's hard to like a fighter whenever they have a history of ring crimes but Luis Nery took one step to becoming a hardcore favourite with his fight last Saturday evening. Nery has always provided power and action but his career looked on the skids after Brandon Figueroa battered his body in May 2021. Following a split decision win over Carlos Castro and early stoppage of David Carmona, Nery returned in Pomona, California against rugged Armenian Azat Hovhannisyan.
The fight heated up quickly as both men blasted away with heavy bombs. Hovhannissyan’s face was starting to bust up and bleed but his ability to hurt Nery to the body kept him right in it. That was until the southpaw favourite landed a cracking left hand as his foe swayed low, his back against the ropes. Suddenly, Hovhannisyan looked weary, his proud record of never being stopped was under threat and the writing was on the wall as Nery stepped in for the kill.
The former WBC super-bantamweight king has forced his way back into the title picture at 122 and will be swiftly forgiven for his prior transgressions if he keeps providing this kind of entertainment.
REST IN PEACE: RON LEWIS
It was sad to hear that boxing scribe Ron Lewis passed away late last week. I can’t pretend to have known Ron well but I did spend some time in his company across the years and he was always an affable man. I was seated at ringside next to him in late 2017 when Zolani Tete knocked out Siboniso Gonya in just 11 seconds. We scrambled around trying to work out if this was the fastest KO in world title history.
He also came over to Belfast for the Windsor Park outdoor show when Carl Frampton stopped Luke Jackson and Ron toiled over the spelling of Irish referee Padraig OReachtagain who officiated on the undercard.
Lewis’ laptop often streamed horse racing as he peeked up and down from the ring to the screen. A talented writer whose work will be missed on the boxing circuit, the biggest loss will be felt by his family who lost a father and husband at the criminally young age of 54.
It seems that BLK Prime’s boxing takeover is on ice for the time being. After overpaying Terence Crawford to beat David Avanesyan in Omaha the fledgling broadcaster was waxing lyrical over their new venture and how they were ready to revolutionise the sport.
Their latest offering, featuring Adrien Broner and Tevin Farmer’s ill fated clash with Mickey Bey, has now been canned. Nobody was surprised at this news. The pay-per-view is still for sale on their website just a couple of days before the event was originally due to take place.
Photo credit: BBC
Jake Paul and Tommy Fury will settle their longstanding differences in Diriyah this weekend. It’s more diarrhoea than Diriyah as far as the antics of this pair are concerned. Let’s hope Fury actually turns up and they play out the carnival once and for all. I’m picking Jake Paul to win by the way. Possibly by stoppage, although it could get messy as both novice pugs tire and fumble towards a 10-round conclusion. If Paul looks impressive then the growing circus will definitely roll on.
About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 400 eps. 15+ years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief script writer for Motivedia channel.