The buzz surrounding Leigh Wood’s WBA featherweight title defence against Mauricio Lara continues to grow, with the pair scheduled to punch swap at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham on February 18. The 12-round bout, plus undercard action, will be broadcast exclusively by DAZN.
Wood (26-2, 18 KOs) won the WBA “regular” title with a thrilling 12th-round stoppage of Xu Can in July 2021. The 34-year-old Englishman has since stopped Michael Conlan in the closing seconds of The Ring Magazine Fight of the Year 2022, and he’s been upgraded to full WBA champion.
The 24-year-old Lara, who will be contesting his first world title bout, made his name by blasting out another British star, Josh Warrington (KO 9), in February 2021. The Mexico City product is generally regarded as the hardest puncher in the division and that’s one of the reasons he’s been installed as the pre-fight favourite. His record stands at 25-2 (18 KOs).
MORE: Watch Leigh Wood vs. Mauricio Lara on DAZN
After Wood and Lara have duked it out on Saturday, their matchup will be added to the long list of U.K. vs Mexico showdowns.
The Sporting News now takes a look at five occasions when these great boxing nations have collided:
Ruben Olivares vs Alan Rudkin
- Date/ Location: Dec. 12, 1969/ The Forum, Inglewood, California
- Titles: Undisputed bantamweight
Liverpool’s Rudkin was the reigning British bantamweight champion and a former two-time world title challenger. The talented Englishman had mixed with the best, splitting two fights with Walter McGowan, and pushing future Hall of Famer Fighting Harada and Lionel Rose the 15-round distance in losing efforts.
Olivares, however, is arguably the greatest Mexican fighter of all time. At this point, the champion was unbeaten in 55 fights and at the peak of his awesome powers.
It was all too much for the British challenger. Olivares had Rudkin over in the opening round and closed out with two more knockdowns in the second.
Result: Olivares TKO 2
MORE: All you need to know about Leigh Wood vs. Mauricio Lara
Julio Cesar Chavez vs Andy Holligan
- Date/ Location: Dec. 18, 1993/ Estadio Cuauhtermoc, Puebla, Mexico
- Titles: WBC super-lightweight
Holligan, who also hailed from Liverpool, was the reigning British and Commonwealth super-lightweight champion and unbeaten in 21 fights. However, there was nothing on his resume to suggest that he could pull a miracle.
The iconic Chavez was a three-weight world champion and unbeaten in 89 fights. If that’s not enough, the fight would be contested on his home soil.
Chavez piled on the pressure from the opening bell, nailing the challenger with combinations up and down. The Englishman enjoyed some success in the fourth, but a damaging attack by Chavez late in the fifth convinced Holigan’s corner to pull their man out at the end of that session.
Result: Chavez TKO 5
Prince Naseem Hamed vs Marco Antonio Barrera
- Date/ Location: April 7, 2001/ MGM Grand, Las Vegas
- Titles: Non-title bout
While there was no recognised world championship on the line in the Hamed vs Barrera matchup, few fans were complaining. This was a high-octane clash of elite-level featherweights and pound-for-pound entrants.
Unbeaten in 35 fights with 31 knockouts, Sheffield’s Hamed was an authentic superstar. “The Prince” captured IBF, WBO, and WBC featherweight titles during his run, and only political craziness prevented the charismatic power-puncher from picking up the WBA belt.
Barrera had twice won world titles at super-bantamweight, but many felt the battle-hardened Mexican was on the slide.
That was a mistake.
MORE: Leigh Wood fearless ahead of Mauricio Lara fight
Not only did Barrera take command of the fight, he switched up his style and outboxed Hamed en route to a masterful 12-round unanimous decision triumph.
Result: Barrera UD 12
Ricky Hatton vs. Jose Luis Castillo
- Date/ Location: June 23, 2007/ Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
- Titles: Ring Magazine super-lightweight
The fighting pride of Manchester, Hatton was one of the biggest stars in world boxing at this time. “The Hitman” had upset the great Kostya Tszyu (TKO 11) to win the championship; unified at the expense of Carlos Maussa (KO 9), and even picked up a welterweight title.
With crosshairs on a superfight against Floyd Mayweather, Hatton took his enormous and loyal U.K. fanbase to Las Vegas for a matchup against former two-time lightweight king Jose Luis Castillo.
This was a win for the Brits.
Hatton won every round and closed out with a wicked left hook to the body that broke the Mexican fighter’s ribs.
Result: Hatton KO 4
Canelo Alvarez vs. Callum Smith
- Date/ Location: Dec. 19, 2020/ Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
- Titles: WBA, WBC, and Ring Magazine super-middleweight
When it comes to Canelo defeating British fighters, it’s a case of “take your pick.”
MORE: Breaking down the undercard of Leigh Wood vs. Mauricio Lara
The Mexican star won his first world title (vacant WBC super-welterweight) by outpointing Matthew Hatton in March 2011. Since that time, Canelo has turned back the challenges of Ryan Rhodes (TKO 12), Amir Khan (KO 6), Liam Smith (KO 9), Rocky Fielding (TKO 3), and Billy Joe Saunders (TKO 8).
The bout against Callum Smith is standout because it established Canelo as the premier 168-pounder on the planet. Smith, from Liverpool, entered as the unbeaten WBA and Ring Magazine champion, but he had very little success against his WBC counterpart.
Canelo was red-hot throughout and won a landslide decision.
Result: Alvarez UD 12