Anish Parekh previews Leigh Wood vs Mauricio Lara
Leigh Wood and Mauricio Lara were not expected to reach world level and now they are about to serve up a fight of the year contender, writes Anish Parekh
The outcome of boxing, like many sports, is determined by the skill and will of the competitors but unlike other sports where jeopardy is minimal, even the victor can suffer consequences that they might have to suffer with for the rest of their lives. And very few fights epitomise the perilous nature of boxing than this weekend's WBA world title fight between Mauricio Lara and Leigh Wood.
It's the type of fight that makes boxing fans salivate for reasons that also make the sport a guilty pleasure in the knowledge that this clash has the potential to be fight of the year with all the blood, guts and drama that excites a hardcore fan but would make the average person feel queasy.
What resonates with the public about these men is that Leigh Wood and Mauricio Lara were not touted to hit such heights. They did it the hard way.
Just three years ago Wood was struggling to see where his career would go after defeat in the Golden Contract Tournament to Jazza Dickens. Yet since then has taken every opportunity afforded to him with with both of his heavy hands, culminating most memorably with his enthralling victory in 2022s fight of the year against the lauded Michael Conlan. Despite enduring a heavy knock down in the first round and losing on the scorecards, Wood came on strong in the final round, caught his opponent with a shattering right hand that sent the Irishman through the ropes, leaving him sprawled on the floor unconscious.
Similarly, Lara had an unheralded start to life as a professional in Mexico, losing his first bout as a 16 year old, then being knocked out two years later in the first round in his 13th fight. The losses may be attributed to youthful inexperience but although they start them young in Mexico, they also make them tough, which Josh Warrington quickly discovered in his 2021 meeting with the Mexican.
Brought over to the UK to keep the popular Leeds man busy ahead of potential big unification fights, unheralded Lara clearly hadn't read the script, and after a tricky start showed his appetite for war by going toe-to-toe with Warrington grinding him down with winging hooks until he ruthlessly bludgeoned him into submission with a knockout in the 9th round.
These men could have taken easier paths that didn't represent such danger but unlike 99.9% of the general people, they do not shy from such situations, they put themselves in harms way, and allow millions of people to watch, whilst they challenge themselves to confront the danger infront of them and overcome it.
Leigh Wood and Mauricio Lara are not like us, they are special. They are examples of undying underdog spirit, prospering from perserverence despite disappointments and the dismissivesness from naysayers.
The sport of boxing has suffered in the last six months with a lack of meaningful fights but Wood-Lara is a timely reminder that there are still some prize-fighters are willing to put everything on the line in a superb contest which I'm sure will be a privilege and pleasure to watch.