The story of the fight was clear from the moment it was announced. Could Lee Wood avoid being knocked out by Mauricio Lara?
Wood survived until the final 20 seconds of the seventh round when he was caught clean with a nice left hook.
The stick was cold when he was dropped and returned when his head hit the canvas. The punch was perfect, a short left hook thrown as Wood attempted the same jab. Wood’s high right hand guard was on point, but the fist slipped in front of the glove and landed in the sweetest of heartbreaking spots.
He moved at about three, started to get up, and regained his feet at a count of seven or eight. He had 12,000 men ready to stand, fight and win. The night was not enough.
He was stiff-legged as he nodded to Mike Alexander’s questions. The referee looked to see Wood raise his arms, but it was a reflex and he still looked unsteady. At the same time, Lara was not far away in a corner, she was not looking in her corner for advice; Lara knew exactly what she had to do to make her dream come true. to attack, it was clear, and he came closer. Wood, it must be said, did nothing at that point to prolong the delay; he never went for a walk that would have cost him valuable seconds, he never spat out his shield, he never even tried to move from where he stood. Wood was extremely vulnerable and at that moment he was a helpless target.
The fight froze and for a second, which lasted much longer, there was a moment when everything stopped. Lara was ready, Alexander was ready, Wood was desperate, the crowd was up, the faithful looked at ringside in hope, and at that moment Ben Davison came up the steps and threw a white towel of submission on the referee. The fight was over.
Davison told me in the ring, just minutes after the fight, that he had no idea how much time was left in the round when he threw in the towel. It was officially only six seconds, but it was probably more like nine when he squeezed the blood-stained towel. It was dramatic. Some were whistling, some were cheering, many were just looking in amazement. Wood was in front, in control and happy, but that changed when Lara joined.
It was incredibly tense and a privilege to witness just six feet from the edge of the canvas. Lara is even scarier at that range and from that position, and all of Wood’s work was even more impressive. He used his feet, high guard, his movement and picked his way to a strong lead. The concentration from the wood was exceptional. he knew he had to land a left hook on Lara and in six rounds and about 160 seconds, he did just that. And he did it in style.
The fight wasn’t played at a ridiculously fast pace, but the rounds were dropped. The opener was cagey from both, Wood confident and looking to land his right hand if Lara escaped with sweeping left hooks. It was the championship round. However, in the final seconds, Lara’s head opened a cut above Wood’s left eye. It was bad enough that it flowed through the rest of the fight.
Wood was hit and dazed late in the second and returned to his corner hurt. In the third, Wood landed a series of good, straight rights, a clear jab against a man lost with a left hook. Wood regained control and a pattern was established. At the end of the round, Lara was still laughing, she could smile, but she was down 2-1. Lara smiles a lot.
Wood took a big right and left in the fourth, came back with a right of his own, and by the end of the round Lara was gasping for breath; Barry Jones, who was next to me during the BBC Five Live shift, wondered if Lara had hurt her jaw. The cut, by the way, remained closed for most of the rounds and only started running at the last minute. Jumbo Johnson, on duty with magic mops in the corner, worked his craft, keeping Wood in the fight.
In the fifth, Lara started to look a little lost, like she was feeling sorry for herself. He had repeatedly complained that Wood had hit him low. Wood started the sixth rallying his faithful and then he won the round in style. Lara just couldn’t land the left hook. I wrote a note on my newspaper. “The wood has become greedy.” He did, and it was always going to be a problem.
Leigh Wood is one of the oldest old fashioned fighters. He has had very few breaks. We all know he was the underdog, he was up against Lara again and he won fight after fight. He gives his heart; she is easy to read and impossible not to love. I was afraid for him before the fight, but at the bell to start the seventh round I really believed that he would win. Not after a while from me, sorry.
Lara protested again in the seventh and final round, Wood looked comfortable, big and strong, and then he relaxed for a split second. The fight was over, Lara was thrown with a left hook.
Wood was unhappy with Davison. Lara challenged Josh Warrington at ringside, insulting him and spitting at his feet. In the ring, Eddie Hearn confirmed the point of rematch. Warrington also wants Lara for a trilogy fight. There was a debate over Davison’s use of the towel and, strangely enough, both sides were willing to listen to the other side. “It should never have been stopped, but I understand why,” Carl Froch told me. Many at ringside were stunned, as was Wood at the sudden end, and that’s always the sign of a truly great fight. Wood later agreed with Davison’s decision and praised him.
There was a point where both the winner and the loser were crying in the arms of the men who cared for them. It was raw at the end – raw and truly unforgettable. Lara had a world title, something that seemed an impossible dream two or so years ago. They’ll both be back, maybe together, maybe not.
“This fight,” Hearn said, “is a reminder of how good our sport is when it’s done well.” It was also a harsh reminder of how brutal it can be.