Matchroom Boxing’s 2023 schedule in the UK is set to begin with a bang at the Motorpoint Arena Nottingham on Saturday February 18 as hometown hero Leigh Wood puts his WBA Featherweight World Title on the line against big-punching Mexican Mauricio Lara, live worldwide on DAZN (excluding Australia and New Zealand).
‘Leigh-thal’ (26-2, 16 KOs) memorably stopped Michael Conlan in the 12th and final round of his epic first defence of the WBA 126lbs title back in March 2022, knocking the Irishman out of the ring in brutal fashion to end their Fight of the Year stunner.
The Forest-mad Featherweight was heavily dropped in the opening round and looked to be heading towards his third loss in the pros before brilliantly fighting back to earn a brilliant win that will be talked about for many years to come.
Wood is now recognised as the World Boxing Associations only Champion at Featherweight after former ‘Super Champion’ Leo Santa Cruz relinquished his title on Monday December 12, and the 34-year-old wants to waste no time in adding more World Titles to his collection in 2023.
‘Bronco’ (25-2-1, 18 KOs) has been waiting patiently for his shot at Wood after their eagerly anticipated September 24 fight was postponed following a torn bicep suffered by Wood in sparring, but the Featherweight KO artist finally gets his dream World Title opportunity next month.
Lara is well-known on UK shores after he floored and ruthlessly finished Josh Warrington in a sensational upset behind closed doors at The SSE Arena, Wembley in February 2021, ending the IBF Featherweight World Champion’s unbeaten record.
He rematched Warrington in front of a sold-out Headingley Stadium in Leeds seven months later, but a nasty cut over the left eye of the Mexican in round two caused by an accidental clash of heads resulted in the contest ending in a technical draw.
The power-punching 24-year-old blitzed Emilio Sanchez in three rounds in March 2022 on the undercard of Roman Gonzalez vs. Julio Cesar Martinez before stopping Jose Sanmartin in three in another destructive show of brute force to put the 126lbs division on notice.
“Mauricio Lara has made things personal between us with the disrespect he showed me regarding my injury and my country,” said Wood. “I’m going to show him what I’m all about. See you on February 18 Nottingham – And Still!”
“I have been waiting for this opportunity for 2 years and I am not going to waste it,” said Lara. “In February 2021 I beat Warrington in England, now in 2023 I will do the same with Wood. The WBA 126lbs World Title goes to Mexico, that I promised to my daughter, my family, my team and to my whole country. Your time has come Leigh Wood, no “injury” can save you now from this.”
“Quite simply this is a fight that you have to watch through your fingers,” said Matchroom Sport Chairman Eddie Hearn. “After the drama of the Conlan fight last March, Leigh Wood is about to bring another night of drama to the Motorpoint Arena Nottingham against the brutal, fearless and much avoided Mauricio Lara. This fight leads Leigh to the City Ground in the summer but first get ready for an epic main event and all action card as we gear up for another FOTY contender in Nottingham on February 18.”
“What a fight this is to kick off the Matchroom UK schedule in 2023,” said Joe Markowski, CEO DAZN North America. “Both Wood and Lara are incapable of being involved in anything other than brutal, toe to toe, edge of your seat fights and I for one cannot wait for February 18. Watch this barnstormer live and exclusive on DAZN."