The finish line is well in sight for Leigh Wood.
Job one was to regain the title, which the 34-year-old Nottingham native did in near flawless fashion. Wood soundly outboxed Mauricio Lara over twelve rounds in their DAZN-aired rematch this past Saturday to regain the WBA featherweight title and avenge a one-punch knockout to the Mexico City-bred slugger just three months ago. All focus was squarely placed on leaving Manchester’s AO Arena with the title back in tow.
With that mission accomplished, next up is mapping out the rest of his career.
“I just (wanted) to get this win over the line and then we’ll have a conversation about what’s next,” Wood told BoxingScene.com. “I have maybe two, three fights left. Not really sure yet but they have to be big fights.”
From an alphabet title standpoint, a mandatory title defense versus Uzbekistan’s Otabek Khlomatov (11-0, 10KOs) is likely to be ordered by the WBA per a pre-fight ruling when they agreed to sanction the Wood-Lara rematch. Bigger fights are sought for Wood, particularly a long-brewing grudge match with countryman and former two-time IBF featherweight titlist Josh Warrington (31-2-1, 7KOs).
Also of interest to Wood is unifying the division as far as the politics of the sport will allow.
A win by Michael Conlan on Saturday in Belfast would have set up a rematch to the 2022 Fight of the Year which saw Wood rally to score a dramatic 12th round knockout last March 12 in his Nottingham hometown. Conlan’s bid to claim the IBF title ended in his landing on the wrong end of a highlight reel fifth-round knockout by defending titlist Luis Alberto Lopez this past Saturday, roughly an hour before Wood’s revenge-fueled win over Lara (26-3-1, 19KOs).
Wood was just as eager to face Mexicali’s Lopez (28-2, 16KOs), as long as it’s at a bucket list destination. One dream that Wood (27-3, 16KOs) is eager to see become a reality is to headline a show at City Ground, the 125-year-old football stadium and home to his beloved Nottingham Forest Football Club.
“I’ve had a fairy-tale career. It’s time to give me my f-----' happy ending,” Wood demanded after his win. “Give me the City Ground.”
His team is prepared to make his dreams come true.
“Leigh Wood, proper old school, throwback fighter,” Eddie Hearn, Wood’s promoter and head of Matchroom Boxing, stated. “Nottingham legend. We have to—City Ground, have to. Nottingham Forest, have to. We have to make it happen.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox