Mark the date in your diaries. Saturday 24 September 2022, Nottingham Arena…
Gedling’s favourite son, and one of Nottingham’s own, ‘Leighthal’ Leigh Wood, 26-2(16) is set to defend his WBA World featherweight title, against the world number six ranked, Mauricio ‘Bronco’ Lara, 24-2-1(17).
In winning the title, against Can Xu, in July last year, Wood made a first, successful defence against Michael Conlan, in the March of this, stopping both opponents in the twelfth – but he knows that, with that title round his waist, there’s a target on his back.
The same can be said of Leo Santa Cruz, 38-2-1(19), who looks like will be in a unification contest with the undefeated Rey Vargas, 36-0(22) later in the year – Santa Cruz has been one whom Wood has chased for some time – the pair though, will have to wait a little longer in which to dance, should they come through their upcoming contests that is…
A statement from the governing body, the WBA (World Boxing Association), said that –
“The World Boxing Association (WBA) Championships Committee approved the joint permit requested by Matchroom Boxing and TGB Promotions to allow featherweight super champion Leo Santa Cruz to face Rey Vargas in a unification fight and featherweight champion Leigh Wood to make a defense against Mauricio Lara.
“Both fights were approved with the condition that the super champion will face the champion to define the sole champion of the category within 120 days after the fight between Santa Cruz and Vargas.
“It should be noted that the WBA, in the midst of world title reduction plan, ordered the Santa Cruz-Wood last April 6, 2022. On July 11, TGB requested a permit to make the Santa Cruz Vargas, which was denied on July 15 by the championships committee, which called for a purse bid for Santa Cruz-Wood.
“On August 12, both companies sent a communication stating that they had reached an agreement and the purse bid was suspended. Subsequently, on the 22nd of that same month, the joint permission was requested in which the Santa Cruz-Vargas and the Wood-Lara were requested, with the commitment that both winners would face each other in the established term to define the only champion.”
As for Leighthal, he’s prepared to hold off a little, and play the waiting game, but for him, now, “there are no easy fights, and every one pf them has to be meaningful.”
Can Xu, and Michael Conlan, both posed their own questions of Wood, as he’s sure Lara will also, and, with a home crowd roaring him on, he knows he has the tools in the bag in which to be able to do the business.
“I’ve explained the Conlan fight so many times now, and, by the time it got to the tenth round, he was gone,” explained Wood.
“I knew that I had to get to the championship rounds, into rounds ten, eleven, twelve, and that’s where I did the business.
“Bur every approach is just that little different, and Lara, he’s better, in his own way, to my previous two opponents.
“He’s dangerous, and can operate to a very high level, but we also know that he has weaknesses.
“Because of that alone, we have a lot of hard work to do between now, and the fight but Ben (Davison), he’s got people lined up for sparring, I just need to do as I’m told and I’m sure that, if I do that, I can win – they’ve not been wrong yet!”
Wood versus Lara, and Santa Cruz against Vargas, a quartet that will shape the featherweight division – come early next year(ish), and the destiny of one Nottingham fighter, could well be written in championship gold.
“Whoever wins this one, gets the winner of the unification bout between Santa Cruz and Vargas,” added Wood.
“If I can’t beat Lara though, then I don’t deserves to be here.
“I’ve probably got three or four fights left in me, and I want to be tested in those; every fight now needs to be a forward step, and has to be meaningful for me.”
Meanwhile, Wood’s opponent in the title defence, Mauricio Lara, has been quoted as saying: “This is the opportunity that I have worked so hard for and I am not going to miss it.
“I am aware that Leigh Wood is a great fighter, but no one is going to take away the possibility of me becoming a World Champion. I’m going to England for the third time and it’s like I’m fighting at home.”
Other contests on the card include a collision between Maxi Hughes and Kid Galahad, whilst Terri Harper challenges Hannah Rankin for the latter’s IBO and WBA super welterweight titles – tickets will be available from HERE on Friday 26 August.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @itsLeighWood the champion will be more than ready to take on the challenger next month.