Leigh Wood has long given up on gaining the confidence of the oddsmakers.
The former WBA featherweight titlist has grown accustomed to serving as the underdog, as this weekend will mark the fourth consecutive fight where he’s forced to embrace that role. It comes ahead of his demanded rematch with Mexico City’s Mauricio Lara, who rallied to stop Wood in the seventh round and claim the WBA title on the road in Nottingham, England.
The two run it back this Saturday once again DAZN, this time from AO Arena in Manchester. Wood is listed at +240 by bet365 to regain his old title, while the same sportsbook has Lara (26-2-1, 19KOs) at a healthy -300 to score a repeat win.
“It doesn't surprise me at all,” Wood admitted, with a grin, to BoxingScene.com. “Maybe the fashion in which I lost. People seen me dropped before against [Michael] Conlan, so maybe they think, ‘He’s just gonna get knocked out again.’”
This time around, the WBA title is only on the line for Wood after Lara failed to make the featherweight limit at Friday's official weigh-in.
Wood (26-3, 16KOs) was ahead on all three scorecards through six rounds before the bottom fell out from under his feet. Lara connected with a left hook to floor the hometown favorite late in round seven for the bout’s lone knockdown. Wood beat the count, only for head trainer Ben Davison to literally throw in the towel which forced referee Michael Alexander to stop the contest.
The fight came just two months after Wood was elevated to full WBA titlist but eleven months after his come-from-behind, twelfth-round knockout of Conlan last March 12 also in Nottingham. Wood was dropped in the opening round and trailed on all three scorecards before he dropped the unbeaten Conlan late in round eleven and then clean out of the ring midway through the twelfth and final round.
Wood entered the fight—his first defense of the WBA ‘Regular’ title—as a +140 underdog. The odds were much closer than was the case in his title win over China’s Can Xu, who was a -350 favorite heading into their August 2021 clash which saw Wood prevail via twelfth-round stoppage.
Saturday’s fight odds are slightly wider than they were for the first fight. Wood was a +200 underdog despite entering the fight with hometown advantage and as the defending WBA titleholder, while the visiting Lara entered the ring as a -275 favorite.
Weirdly, Wood is given less of a chance to prevail this time around despite his leading on all cards prior to the stoppage. Even beyond the oddsmakers, many fans and industry insiders alike believe the 34-year-old Englishman was unwise to demand an immediate rematch.
“The boxing fraternity is sometimes a bit crazy,” noted Wood. “But as I’ve always done, the opinions of others don’t really mean much to me. I’m confident in what I have to do. I’m just gonna go out there and do it.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox