Friday, May 26, 2023

Has Wood Miscalculated In Invoking Immediate Rematch Against Lara?

In February of this year, one of the rising stars of the 126lb. Featherweight division, Leigh Wood entered the ring to defend his WBA Featherweight world championship against top contender Mauricio Lara in Nottingham, England. By all accounts, it was a fight that was viewed as a next step in the rise of Wood that would theoretically potentially lead to him looking to unify the Featherweight division down the line.

For a significant period of time for the champion, it appeared that he would box his way to a convincing victory over the dangerous Lara as he applied a smooth Boxing approach that not only served to out box the challenger, but more specifically build a lead on the scorecards over the first six rounds of the scheduled twelve round world championship bout. As can sometimes be the case in Boxing however, the fight would suddenly turn in the favor of Lara. Equally as sudden would be how the fight would end.

In an exchange of left hooks in the seventh round, Lara's left hook would connect and drop Wood hard on the canvas on his back. Although Wood showed a champion's heart by getting up from the knockdown, his trainer Ben Davison threw the towel in to stop the fight before it could continue making Lara the new WBA champion.

While the decision of Davison to stop the fight was seen as controversial by some, Wood did go down hard and it is understandable that he put the welfare of his fighter over the world title that Wood held. Nevertheless, three months removed from that fight in Wood's hometown, the now former champion per his exercising his immediate rematch clause, prepares to face Lara again on Saturday, May 27th at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, which can be seen worldwide on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN.

The obvious question that this observer has going into this rematch is, is this rematch coming too soon for Wood? In previous eras in Boxing history, it was not uncommon for fighters at the top level of the sport to fight frequently, in some cases, once per month if not more depending on the situation. Perhaps the issue here is not so much the idea that it is too soon for Wood to get back in the ring, but more specifically, the decision to involve the rematch clause.

Rematch clauses are certainly not a new concept in the sport and are a normal part of negotiation, particularly in regard to world championship bouts. Unfortunately, the answer to the question of whether or not Wood invoking his rematch clause will ultimately be a bad decision cannot be answered without the rematch taking place.

How can Wood avenge his loss at the hands of Lara? It is important to keep in mind that Wood was ahead on the scorecards and for the most part, was having his way throughout most of the fight up to the moment where he got caught. Leigh Wood is certainly not the first fighter to have been in such a scenario and he will not be the last. There were however, subtle things that did lead to Wood being caught and subsequently stopped in the first fight. The most notable that stood out to this observer was the lack of head movement by Wood. 

Although Wood had the advantage in terms of hand speed and put it to use throughout the fight, whenever he let his hands go,  he would not move his head to try and avoid anything that Lara threw back at him. This in addition to leaving his chin up, which Lara was able to take advantage of periodically in landing some shots, particularly with his right hand before the exchange of left hooks that ended the fight occurred. While it is easier said than done, Wood must be aware at all times to be defensively responsible in this fight even if it becomes a scenario where he is having his way and is able to build a lead on the scorecards. Mauricio Lara was able to prove that indeed sometimes all a fighter needs is one punch and if Wood has the same defensive flaws, which can be hard to correct, in this rematch as he did in the first fight, the possibility of the same type of scenario as what ended fight 1 between these two fighters exists.

As for the champion in his first title defense the strategy is simple in theory, but may also be easier said than done. Lara must find a way to cut off the ring and try to limit Wood's ability to use lateral movement. While he did show one punch power the first time around, Lara needs to find a way to combat the hand speed of Wood, but must be consistent and not rely on one punch to get the job done here. It has often been said that the way to negate speed is by timing. The question here is whether the champion can use that timing, but also be busy offensively if the fight goes into the middle and late rounds in case he might be behind on the scorecards in order to win a decision if needed to retain his title.

It is logical to assume that if Wood manages to regain his championship in this rematch that a third fight between the two would not be too far in the future. Whether this is merely chapter 2 of a longer rivalry between Lara and Wood remains to be seen. For a division like the Featherweights that historically is no stranger to such rivalries that turn into trilogies and even beyond, it would not surprise yours truly to see Lara-Wood become the latest in the long list of historic rivalries in the Featherweight division.

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

Lara vs Wood 2 takes place on Saturday, May 27th at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. The fight as well as it's full undercard can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN beginning at 12:15PM ET/9:15AM PT with Before The Bell, which will feature preliminary bouts. The main portion of the card will follow at 2PM ET/11AM PT.

(*U.S. Times Only*) (*Card and Start times Subject to change.*)

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