Leigh Wood will defend his WBA featherweight title against Mauricio Lara on Feb. 18 in Nottingham, England, promoter Matchroom Boxing announced on Monday.
The bout, which shapes up as a slugfest between two aggressive fighters, was scheduled for September before Wood suffered a torn biceps while sparring.
Wood (26-2, 16 KOs) defended the 126-pound title with a thrilling 12th-round knockout of Michael Conlan in February, a bout that was named ESPN’s Fight of the Year and KO of the Year. Wood, 34, was floored in Round 1 but rallied to send Conlan through the ropes for the brutal finish.
It was a raucous atmosphere in Nottingham, and now Wood will return home for his second title defense. Leo Santa Cruz, who hadn’t defended his WBA title since 2019, relinquished the belt in December, meaning Wood will fight as a full-fledged champion for the first time.
“Mauricio Lara has made things personal between us with the disrespect he showed me regarding my injury and my country,” said Wood, ESPN’s No. 7 featherweight. “I’m going to show him what I’m all about.”
While the Englishman recovered from the biceps injury, Lara (25-2-1, 18 KOs) stayed busy with a third-round KO of journeyman Jose Sanmartin in October in his hometown, Mexico City.
Lara, 24, is no stranger to fighting on the road in England. He broke out in February 2021 with an upset victory over Josh Warrington before the rematch seven months later in Leeds resulted in a two-round no contest due to a clash of heads.
“I have been waiting for this opportunity for two years and I am not going to waste it,” said Lara, ESPN’s No. 2 featherweight. ” … The WBA 126-pound 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.”