There will be some major events in the sport as the year progresses but the quality of the fights we’re getting on the way there remains fantastic in early 2023.

On paper, both big main events on Saturday looked good. Both delivered. There isn’t much more we can ask for.

One can wonder if trainer Ben Davison would ask for a clock.

There was no way he could know that there were just roughly ten seconds left in round seven when he opted to throw in the towel on WBA titlist Leigh Wood. Wood had just been floored by a brutal left hook and, while Wood beat the count, he was obviously still badly impaired.

Wood was also ahead on all three judges' scorecards. After enduring a nasty beating in round two, Wood boxed beautifully and was keeping the ferocious attack of Mauricio Lara at bay. Had he stuck to what was working, staying behind and long jab and right hand and letting his superior speed contain, Wood may have found his way to the finish line. Instead Wood opted to exchange hooks with a hooker and paid the price.

But the question was there: could he have survived a few seconds and found his legs in the corner? Wood’s health was certainly better served by not finding out but this is the same fighter who found a way out of a deep hole against Michael Conlan last year. It’s not an easy choice for the corner but if he’d known how little time remained, would Davison have made the same call?

It’s the sort of question that can fuel a rematch.

Futures: Lara now reigns at featherweight and adds Wood to a run of four knockout wins in five starts. That run also includes a then-undefeated Josh Warrington who Lara spit on after the fight. Tacky? Yes, but Lara has two paydays in the UK right now in rematches with either Wood or Warrington. With an action style that forgets the jab, Lara is going to remain fun to watch until someone can finish the job of outboxing him or knocks Lara out before Lara gets the job done. It’s not elite stuff, but it’s fun TV.

Wood, at 34, will have to decide how much longer he will continue. It’s hard to imagine he can continue to rally in fights from the beatings he takes to get there but one can imagine he will want at least one more try at Lara. He gave a hell of an effort Saturday and there’s no shame in losing when that’s the case.

The same could be said of Saturday’s other big main event.

Nery Outduels Crazy A

Jr. featherweight is red hot right now with arguably the best fight that can be made in boxing expected to be formally announced soon (Stephen Fulton-Naoya Inoue). The last couple years have provided the same sort of vibes the division had in the mid-1990s when Marcoi Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Junior Jones, Kennedy McKinney, and even more co-stars made Boxing After Dark destination television.

Luis Nery was folded the last time he found himself in a grueling war, undone by the body attack of Brandon Figueroa. Saturday, Nery made it his night. Azat Hovhannisyan made him work for every bit of it. Both men’s faces were marked by the end but it was Hovhannisyan who worked through a cut starting in round three and Hovhannisyan whose face was more swollen. 

Hovhannisyan kept coming anyway and fans were treated to the sort of physical carnage that makes every cent spent on a ticket worth it. Dropped in the tenth, and aided slightly by an early bell, Hovhannisyan was finally saved from himself in the eleventh in a bout where both men showed commendable courage. It was arguably the best of several “fight of the year contenders” already in the bag this year.

Futures: For Nery, it was the hardest fought victory of his career. Given the shenanigans around both his wins over Shinsuke Yamanaka, and the loss to Figueroa, it was easy to wonder if Nery would ever live up to some of the early excitement around him. Saturday was the answer. He’s one of the best Jr. featherweights in the world and still very much in the title hunt.

Nery is back to being an intriguing challenger to the winner of Fulton-Inoue or the division’s other unified titlist, Murodjon Akhmadaliev. Hovhannisyan will need recovery time but let’s hope he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. He left everything he could in the ring Saturday and while he took a step back in the title hunt, Hovhannisyan earned another real chance to get back in the race when he’s prepared to return.

That was a nice weekend, bell to bell, and that’s what really matters.      

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at