Michael Conlan wants Leigh Wood to win his rematch with Mauricio Lara on Saturday night in Manchester, England.
If Wood were to avenge his seventh-round, technical-knockout loss to Lara and Conlan beats Luis Alberto Lopez, Conlan’s own rematch with Wood would be a 126-pound title unification fight. Conlan will challenge Lopez for the Mexico City native’s IBF featherweight title Saturday night in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Conlan’s hometown.
While Conlan hopes Wood wins, he doesn’t see it happening.
“I think Lara knocks him out again,” Conlan told BoxingScene.com. “I think it’s too soon. I don’t know why they jumped into the rematch so quickly, probably because there is a mandatory on that belt, the Uzbek fighter [Otabek Kholmatov]. I don’t know when [he’ll get his shot], but he’s a good fighter and I actually think he would beat Lara, with all due respect to Lara. But I think they wanna keep that belt in the Matchroom kinda bubble. I read that Lara-[Josh] Warrington can happen and there’s a mix between the three of them. But I don’t know why [Wood has] taken that fight again.”
Mexico’s Lara (26-2-1, 19 KOs) won the WBA featherweight title from Wood in their February 18 fight at Motorpoint Arena in Wood’s hometown of Nottingham, England.
Eddie Hearn – whose company promotes Wood, Lara and Josh Warrington – proposed that Lara make his first title defense against England’s Warrington (31-2-1, 8 KOs) and that the winner face Wood in his following fight. Wood (26-3, 16 KOs) instead exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch, which will take place just three months after his trainer, Ben Davison, stopped their fight once a woozy Wood got up from a seventh-round knockdown.
Wood was winning on all three scorecards through six rounds (59-55, 58-56, 58-56). Lara’s left hook knocked Wood flat on his back with 23 seconds to go in the seventh round.
Wood got up in time to beat referee Michael Alexander’s count, but Davison threw in the towel.
“He done well in the first fight,” Conlan said of Wood. “If he had maintained his boxing and not got greedy, he probably could’ve won. But I think it was inevitable that Lara would get him. I’m not the biggest puncher in the world and I had Leigh Wood out on his feet a few times that fight.
“But he’s ballsy, he’s tough and he’s determined, and he can bite down on his gumshield and keep going. So, you’ve gotta give him credit. But I think the stoppage was correct at the time Ben Davison threw the towel in because, you know, Lara’s a devastating puncher and I think if he landed a few more it could’ve done serious damage on Leigh.”
Wood knocked out Conlan in the 12th round of a brutal battle that won numerous “Fight of the Year” awards for 2022. Conlan dropped Wood in the first round of their March 2022 bout at Motorpoint Arena, but Wood recovered, came back to send Conlan to the canvas in the 11th round and knocked him out of the ring in the 12th round.
“He’s had two fights back-to-back with me and Lara where he’s been concussed bad,” said Conlan, who has won back-to-back bouts against Miguel Marriaga and Karim Guerfi since Wood knocked him out. “In my fight, probably worse because he got concussed so many times during that fight. With the Lara fight, he probably got a bit of a concussion from the second round, when he was getting rocked all over the joint. And the one where he got knocked out with, that was another concussive shot. This game is a dangerous, dangerous game, and that’s why I respect everybody who fights. In boxing, your life is on the line every time we’re in that ring.
“And you’re always stepping in the ring a different fighter because you do lose some of yourself, some brain cells. So, you’ve gotta be smart in this game and, you know, take the right fights at the right times and take the chance when you need to take the chances. But going for three fights in a row where most likely you’ll be concussed bad isn’t probably the best thing for your health in the future.”
The Lara-Wood rematch will be streamed by DAZN as a main event worldwide from AO Arena. The streaming service’s coverage of the Lara-Wood undercard is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. BST and 2 p.m. EDT.
The main event between Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs) and Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs) will be broadcast by BT Sport 2 in the United Kingdom and Ireland and streamed by ESPN+ in the United States. Undercard coverage will begin from The SSE Arena at 7 p.m. BST on BT Sport and at 1:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN+, the network’s streaming service.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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