In February of this year, Josh Warrington, the recent former IBF Featherweight world champion, who had relinquished his crown due to elements surrounding the politics of the sport of Boxing climbed into the ring with veteran Mauricio Lara at the Wembley Arena in London, England in what was thought by some to be a means for Warrington to simply re-enter competition after being sidelined like much of the world by the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic. Although some thought of Mauricio Lara as a mere opponent, he did enter the fight with a respectable record of 22-2, with 15 Knockouts compared to Warrington’s 30-0, with 7 Knockouts.
It became clear rather quickly once the fight began that, despite not having the resume comparable to the former world champion, Lara was not interested in being a mere opponent for a fighter in Warrington that frankly had bigger things looming ahead of him. As some may recall when the two fighters met on February 13th of this year, Lara proved to be the stronger of the two fighters as he frequently landed hard thudding punches on Warrington. This included Lara dropping the former world champion hard in the fourth round with a flush left hook to the head.
Although Warrington showed tremendous heart in this fight, he simply could not find a way to keep Lara off of him and it was in the ninth round that Lara brought the fight to an end by knocking Warrington down with another left hook leading to the fight being stopped. This now leads to the rematch on Saturday, September 4th at the Headingley Stadium in Warrington’s hometown of Leeds, England. The bout will headline a nine-bout card broadcast globally by digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN.
There is no dispute that Lara’s knockout of Warrington was an upset, but it was also the type of performance and knockout that some might ask how Warrington will look in this immediate rematch. Some may also question the wisdom in Warrington choosing to take the rematch over six months after the first bout. To be specific, taking the rematch in a relatively short time after suffering a beating at the hands of Lara.
In this observer’s eyes, the focus going into this rematch is squarely on Josh Warrington. Warrington is a former world champion and does have experience at the top level of the sport. What is usually questioned after a fighter sustains the kind of punishment he did against Lara is what effect will it have on the fighter in the long-term? While every fighter and every knockout is different, it is a fair question to ask.
Warrington is a world-class boxer that is capable of Boxing his way to convincing decision victories. What worked against him in the first fight in my eyes was he was more willing to engage with Lara than had been the case against previous opponents. Perhaps this was due to not being familiar with Lara’s style or possibly taking Lara, who was not well-known going into that bout a little lightly with an eye toward more lucrative fights ahead. Whatever the case might be, Warrington’s decision to be more stationary and not use lateral movement to the level he has previously in his career played into Lara’s hands as he gradually broke Warrington down.
An old saying that yours truly believes in with regard to not just the sport of Boxing, but all combat sports is styles make fights. It may be a case that Lara might have a style that is just too difficult for a fighter with Warrington’s style to combat. While this remains to be seen, it will be interesting to see if Lara tries to implement the same pressure/power punching style that worked to his advantage in February. A question that some might ask is whether or not it will be the same approach or if Lara will implement slight changes in order to deflect any adjustments that Warrington might make this time around. If Lara is able to repeat his performance in the rematch, it will be hard not to say that he would not be in line for a world championship opportunity in the 126lb. Featherweight division in the near future. While a second loss to Mauricio Lara would not necessarily put his career in doubt, a second loss would almost certainly drop Josh Warrington out of the picture of potential world championship fights and other lucrative opportunities for a period of time.
The Lara-Warrington rematch card will also feature two bouts that have significant interest. First, undefeated Undisputed Women’s Lightweight world champion Katie Taylor will defend her crown against former IBF Featherweight world champion Jennifer Han in a bout scheduled for ten rounds. For Taylor, who is the top fighter in the 135lb. Lightweight division, the question is how long will she remain at Lightweight. As an undisputed world champion, Taylor has no shortage of opportunities going forward that could see her challenge Undisputed Welterweight world champion Jessica McCaskill, who Taylor defeated in December 2017 in her first title defense of what was then the WBA Lightweight world championship that she eventually fully unified with the WBC, IBF, and WBO world championships, or even a fight with seven-division world champion Amanda Serrano, who is coming off of a successful defense of her unified IBF/WBO/IBO Featherweight world championship over Yamileth Mercado on the undercard of Jake Paul’s victory over former MMA world champion Tyron Woodley.
While there is no shortage of potentially lucrative fights ahead for Taylor, in Jennifer Han, Taylor will face a former Featherweight world champion who has not lost a bout in seven years, but is coming off a bit of a layoff due to having a child and is moving up in weight to challenge Taylor. Han, who is the current number one contender in the International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) Women’s Lightweight ratings is a veteran of twenty-five bouts and will enter the bout with a record of 18-3-1, with 1 Knockout compared to the champion who will enter with a record of 18-0, with 6 Knockouts.
Although Taylor’s toughest test to date was in her first fight with former Lightweight world champion Delfine Persoon in June 2019, the question that I usually have prior to one of her bouts is whether or not an opponent will be able to deal with her hand speed and overall ring generalship. The first bout with Persoon, which Taylor won by ten round majority decision, was the only time that one could make an argument that the decision could have gone the other way. Since that outing including her rematch with Persoon in August of last year, Taylor has been dominant and has not lost many rounds.
Like Taylor, Jennifer Han is a world-class boxer who knows how to go the distance and win rounds, but the question I have is whether or not as the fighter moving up in weight, if she will be able to deal with the champion’s hand speed and overall Boxing ability. It may also be fair to ask whether or not she will be able to take a punch as a Lightweight as well as she has as at Featherweight. What Han does have in her favor is she has not been stopped in her three career losses and like the champion is firmly established as a distance fighter. Whether Han will be able to outwork Taylor over the course of ten rounds in a fight where a knockout may not be likely remains to be seen.
The third featured bout on this card will be the rescheduled Welterweight bout between undefeated contender Conor Benn and Adrian Granados. As some may recall, this bout was originally scheduled to headline the first week of promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing Fight Camp 2021 season back in July, but was postponed two days before the fight when it was revealed that Benn had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus subsequently postponing the fight. As readers may recall in previewing that fight prior to the postponement, this figures to be a stern test for Benn against Granados who has a lot of experience coming into this fight. Although due to the length of this column as well as the fact that yours truly already previewed this fight prior to its original postponement, the story now has a wrinkle in that the question will inevitably be asked whether or not Benn is completely recovered from his bout with COVID-19.
Although since the COVID-19 epidemic began and since the sport of Boxing resumed activity in the summer of last year there have been fighters who have dealt with COVID-19 infections and did not show any adverse effects after being cleared to resume their careers, there have also been those who have appeared to have obvious lingering effects after their bouts with this virus such as longtime Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin, who looked extremely sluggish, very fatigued, and had obvious trouble with his equilibrium in his rematch with Dillian Whyte in March of this year. A fight that Whyte stopped him in four rounds. Obviously, every situation regarding one’s exposure to and recovery from COVID-19 is going to differ, but it is fair to question not just in regard to Conor Benn, but all athletes combat or otherwise as to potential lingering/long-term effects that may or may not show prior to fights. Something that may be even more justifiable given the current state of the ongoing global crisis.
With over 20,000 spectators expected at Headingley Stadium in Leeds, England, this card has three interesting storylines to keep an eye on both in regard to the fights themselves as well as the effects some fighters might have experienced either due to a knockout loss or due to exposure to COVID-19. While the fact that stadiums around the world are gradually being secured to stage Boxing cards such as this one and other sporting and concert events is an encouraging sign that maybe, just maybe things are approaching getting back to normal, we need to keep in mind that the COVID-19 virus and it’s variants are still very much a factor. Although talk of the virus, it’s effects, and the various impacts of it remain dominant in news on television, radio, in print, and online around the world, hopefully, at least for a little while a Boxing card like this will be able to provide a needed diversion from the negative that seems to overshadow most things in this ongoing epidemic. If the action inside the ring turns out to be as compelling as it appears it might be on paper, this night of Boxing will likely be remembered fondly even though it takes place under still challenging circumstances.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Lara vs. Warrington 2 takes place on Saturday, September 4th at Headingley Stadium in Leeds, England. The entire card can be seen exclusively globally on digital subscription-based streaming network DAZN. The Lara-Warrington 2 slate of programming will begin with the DAZN Boxing Show beginning at 10:30AM ET/7:30 AM PT. This will be followed by the Before The Bell pre-fight show that will feature three of the nine total scheduled bouts on the card that will begin at 11:50AM ET/8:50AM PT. The main card featuring the remaining six bouts will follow beginning at 2PM ET/11AM PT. (ALL U.S. Times.)
*Card Subject To Change
For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs, local start times in your area, availability around the world, and to subscribe please visit: www.dazn.com.
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