Leigh Wood plans to give hometown fans short, but pleasant night

One thing British fans learned when Mauricio Lara upset Josh Warrington in 2021 is the Mexican knows only one way to fight: moving forward.

And that’s OK with featherweight champion Leigh Wood, who will defend his belt against Lara on Saturday in his hometown of Nottingham. Wood, coming off his sensational final-round knockout of Michael Conlan in the 2022 Fight of the Year, said he’ll be happy to beat Lara at his own game.

He’s predicting an early night for the challenger.

“He doesn’t have to come looking for me, I’m going to be right in front of him,” Wood said on Tuesday. “I’ll meet him in the middle of the ring. When he walks into the ring, he’s going to be met with a very hostile crowd.

“No one is going to walk into Nottingham and walk through me. It’s not going to happen. I can’t see it reaching the halfway point, and I will win by knockout.”

Wood (26-2, 16 KOs) and Lara (25-2-1, 18 KOs) were supposed to have met last September but Wood suffered a biceps injury, which forced postponement.

Lara reportedly implied that Wood was merely trying to get out of the fight and suggested that his impressive victory over Warrington – a ninth-round knockout – made him a bogeyman in the U.K.

That only made Wood more determined to get the fight done. And it motivates him.

“There was never going to be another fight,” he said. “It was always going to be Mauricio Lara next. He’s said a few things which made it quite personal. He said that I faked my injury and he said that all the English are running away scared.”

Wood had to admit that Lara looked good in the Warrington fight, which took place in London. The Leeds fighter was unbeaten and a rising star at the time. And, in the end, Lara beat him up. Their rematch ended in a technical draw when Lara was cut.

At the same time, Wood said Lara has flaws he plans to exploit.

“From the outside looking in he looks very dangerous,” he said. “He got that devastating win over Josh Warrington. There’s a lot of things he does well and he is dangerous, but in the same hand there’s a lot of things that he does very poorly.

“You can’t get away with that at this level with the right fighter.”

And, again, Wood also will have his not-so-secret weapon: the crowd.

“The people down at the ground have really got behind me my past few fights,” he said. “It’s going to be a special atmosphere this fight. It’s going to be even better. Last time (for the Conlan fight) it was split with the Nottingham lot and the Irish.

“This time it’s predominantly going to be the Nottingham fans. They’ll be singing and making lots of noise. It’s going to be lifting.”

2022 Fight of the Year: Leigh Wood vs. Michael Conlan mayhem

Leigh Wood rallies to stop Michael Conlan in final round of classic

Mauricio Lara stuns Josh Warrington with ninth-round TKO

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