Wood Wins Back The Title
He hasn’t got 12 rounds in him.’
Ben Davison, Leigh Wood’s trainer
That title is the one he lost when being floored in the 7th by Lara in February, the WBA Featherweight strap. And the fight was all Leigh Wood. That was partly because he was allowed to be.
Let’s not take away from Wood’s performance and team, he fought a superb fight.
Last time out, Lara’s hooks did damage. We were promised alterations in the rematch and we got them. Wood took a lot of Lara’s hooks on his gloves and that had to frustrate the champ. He also had a great game plan and stuck to it.
He used the jab early on to keep Lara at length (he didn’t need to use it as much later on) and used his movement to take centre ring and dominate, but also danced away from trouble and kept out of range.
And Davison kept Wood on track beautifully, telling him after he’d knocked Lara down with a well-timed uppercut in round 2 not to get too excited. He had a deep wound just above the left eye from a clash of heads early in the fight, but they just went to work on the cut and kept it closed, minimal fuss, organised corner.
And there was Davison, telling Wood to be patient after round 3, which he certainly did, sticking so well to the gameplan, easing through rounds and gently showing Lara who was boss, even pushing him off when he thought Lara was attempting some roughhousing.
Wood wasn’t flashy, he was judicious in shot selection but effective, in and out and not sloppy even when it became clear that Lara wasn’t coming back with much, he kept his concentration, bossed the rounds and kept Lara constrained.
It was a great performance, but he had help…
He was the champ who had accepted a fight on his opponent’s home turf, which either shows confidence or a lack of negotiating success.
And he turned up overweight. So much so that the British Boxing Board Of Control decided it would be dangerous for him to come down to 126. He came in 4 pounds over that weight. Davison, reported by 3KingsBoxing.com said;
‘Realistically, this shouldn’t be happening, should it? It’s a disgrace, to be honest.’
And that meant that Wood didn’t fight Lara as champion. He had already been stripped of that belt and so it was effectively vacant during the fight. What a mess.
Some may say this was Lara not wanting the fight, not being up for it. Some may say that he couldn’t make the weight and for a man who has had 30 fights, time takes its toll in boxing; except that Leigh Wood has had just as many fights and he made the weight. Eddie Hearn told The Independent;
‘[Lara] feels a little bit hard done by, because he says he could have made weight and he wasn’t allowed to try and make weight. But ultimately, the board decided that he was too heavy at that point during the week to safely make championship weight.’
but the BBBofC have to look out for the fighter’s welfare and took the decision. For a champ to be so unprepared is unusual.
And then the fight. Lara did seem frustrated, once clearly pushing his head up into Wood’s face in a clinch, seen well by ref Steve Gray. His hooks are a go-to move and Wood was seeing them and keeping his gloves up.
But it was a strangely subdued performance from Lara. On DAZN commentary, Carl Froch said late on in the fight that Lara would have to come on stronger if he didn’t want the fight to slip away, that team constantly told us that Lara had to ‘roll the dice’ – they remained in his pocket.
A lot had been made of Lara never having gone 12 rounds before and Wood was clearly ready to take him into the deep water, but the commentary team, insightful throughout, wondered if Lara was worried about putting his foot on the gas because it might empty his tank.
In between rounds, he didn’t look perturbed, answering corner team questions and nodding his head to the music.
It was a strangely disconnected performance, even when throwing a few shots in the 7th round, they looked sluggish, with little speed or pep, perhaps the knockdown so early and a flurry of shots he took in the 3rd turned his view. As The BBC reported;
‘The Mexican’s sluggish movement was in contrast to the clever, dominant performance of Wood.’
There was something else too, something Froch described as ‘herky jerky’, Lara’s balance wasn’t good. That Wood uppercut which put him down in the 2nd was well timed, but Lara had been surging forward, he didn’t have the on-the-toes feel of his opponent and in the 10th round, he was down after appearing to fall over his own feet.
Later on in the fight, Lara will really only begin to throw when he hears the 10-second clapper and the crowd were a little discontented at some of the lack of action, but was it smart for Wood to leave himself open to a counter by going for a knockout when he could cruise through the rounds? Hardly.
And the unusual sight of Lara not joining Steve Gray for the reading of the wide scorecards perhaps showed that he had decided what this night was. He entered the fight being stripped of the title, did that affect his work? He was frustrated by Wood but had no backup plan. He perhaps was drained by the efforts to make weight.
Whatever it was, this looked a little like a capitulation and that’s not good for a fighter.
Fights Aren’t Always Won In The Ring
The sight of Frank Bruno crossing himself on the way to the ring to fight Mike Tyson. The look on Chris Eubank’s face when he saw the headphones Steve Collins was wearing, fed into the rumour that his challenger had been hypnotised into winning. Even Clubber Lang looking into Rocky’s eyes in the third movie and declaring that he’s scared.
So much happens before the fight. Devon Haney is bad mouthing Lomachenko and pushing him at the weigh in may not just be a ticket-boosting show. Approaches are made in the time before the fight and that’s what happened here.
Lara came in overweight, that shows indiscipline and has to cheer up Wood. He was stripped of the title, so now he has to win it back. And what’s more, he’s in the UK, fighters don’t need any more drama when they fight on their opponent’s turf.
This was a good fight, but not just in the ring. Wood boxed excellently and stuck to the plan – my favourite round was the 5th, when not much happened of consequence but Wood eased himself back into centre ring control after Lara had come out with intent – he thoroughly deserved the win.
But this was about the fight game, so much to get right even before the ring walks. Won or lost before you even step between the ropes.