Mauricio Lara is a world champion…
The 24-year-old Mexican professional boxer demonstrated his clinical finishing-punch power by stopping Leigh Wood in the seventh round to win the WBA world featherweight title in England on Saturday.
Lara silenced Wood’s hometown fans at the Nottingham Arena when he floored the champion with a crunching left hook, and when Wood got to his feet, the English boxer’s trainer, Ben Davison, threw in the towel to stop the fight.
Wood had established control in an exciting fight at the time of the stoppage, before Lara’s stunning finish, and was unhappy with Davison’s decision to pull him out of the fight.
“I feel very happy for this championship. It’s what I’ve dreamed of since I was 8 years old,” Lara said. “I definitely felt Leigh’s punches, but they didn’t hurt me. He hits hard and is a good champion.”
The victory opens up the possibility of a title unification fight for Lara against one of the other world champions at 126 pounds — Rey Vargas (WBC) and Luis Alberto Lopez (IBF) — who are also both from Mexico.
But a rematch with Wood seems the more likely next move for Lara, ESPN‘s No. 1-ranked featherweight.
“I want the trilogy fight [with Josh Warrington] and, of course, I want more belts — it’s up to [promoter] Eddie Hearn to make it,” Lara said.
England is a happy hunting ground for Lara, who announced himself on the big stage when he stopped Warrington — the No. 1 featherweight in the world at the time — in the ninth round two years ago.
A rematch ended in frustration, when Lara suffered a nasty cut above his left eye in the second round, caused by a clash of heads, and the fight ended in a technical draw.
But Lara (26-2-1, 19 KOs), 24, known as “Bronco” and from Mexico City, produced two third-round knockouts last year and continued that lethal form to win his first world title, as a heartbroken Wood lost the belt in a second title defense.
Wood (26-4, 16 KOs), 34, had produced two dramatic, last-round knockouts in his previous two fights, against Xu Can to win the belt in July 2021 and then against Michael Conlan — in ESPN’s fight of the year — almost a year ago.
This time Wood was on the receiving end, but he seemed unhappy with the decision of his trainer to stop the fight.
“I’m a fighter — I’m not going to say anything more,” Wood said.
“I made a mistake and I paid for it. Absolutely I want the rematch.”
Wood suffered a setback early on when he was cut near his left eye, caused by a clash of heads in the opening round.
However, Wood started the second round full of fire, landing heavy shots, including a thudding left hook.
But Lara finished the second on top, after he shook Wood with a right to the temple and then had the champion in trouble in the final few seconds of the round.
An excellent encounter swung back in favor of the champion in the third round, with Wood continually threading his right hand through Lara’s guard.
Both landed big left hooks in the fourth, but Wood was more accurate — especially with his right hand — in the fifth round.
Wood, who has transformed his fortunes late in his career, controlled the sixth round as Lara looked subdued and missed with his punches.
Wood had the momentum, but when both went to throw left hooks at the same time, it was Lara’s that landed with such destruction in the seventh round.
Wood was left flat on his back for a count, and when he got to his feet, he was on legs of jelly, prompting Wood’s trainer to throw in the towel with just six seconds left in the round.
Wood was left in tears by Davison’s intervention.