Leigh Wood regains title with rout of Lara; Catterall cruises

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND -- Leigh Wood contained the dangerous Mauricio Lara to get revenge and win back his WBA world featherweight title by unanimous decision Saturday at the Manchester Arena.

Wood (27-3, 16 KOs), 34, from Nottingham, England, took control early on when he floored Lara with a right uppercut and proceeded to frustrate him with a tight defense. Two judges scored it 118-109, and a third had it 116-111 for Wood.

Lara (26-3-1, 19 KOs), 25, from Mexico City, went into the fight as ESPN's No 1 featherweight. Wood also had to contend with a weight disadvantage.

Lara was stripped of the title Friday after the British Boxing Board of Control ruled he could not weigh less than 128.5 pounds for the fight. The board was concerned by Lara's weight at a routine check earlier in the week and deemed it unsafe for him to drop weight to the featherweight limit of 126 pounds at Friday's weigh-in.

Lara weighed in at 129.8 pounds over the limit and the WBA duly stripped him of the belt, meaning only Wood could win the title because he made weight successfully.

Saturday's victory revives Wood's career after a seventh-round stoppage loss to Lara in February, and he can now look forward to a possible lucrative fight against English rival Josh Warrington later this year.

Another possibility for Wood is a title unification fight with Luis Alberto Lopez, who earlier Saturday stopped Michael Conlan in a first defense of the IBF world featherweight title.

Wood, who wore a sombrero in the ring after the decision that crowned him a two-time world champion, said, "What a feeling. I wasn't losing no matter what. I've got a great team, and I knew what to do. I'm here for hard fights. I might get beat, but I come back and beat them.

"Maybe Warrington next at the City Ground. I've probably got two fights left."

England had been a happy hunting ground for Lara, who shot to fame with a 2021 stoppage win over Warrington, then the world's leading featherweight, before returning to end Wood's reign earlier this year.

But Lara, who was supposed to be making a first world title defense before his weight issues, was never in the fight against Wood in the rematch.

Wood was leading on all three judges' scorecards at the time of Lara's stoppage earlier this year, and once again he began as the busier fighter.

Lara was sluggish and paid for it when he was caught cold by a right uppercut in the second round, knocking him off his feet for a count. Lara was soon on his feet, but he continued to be out of sync.

There was a bit more urgency to Lara in the fourth round, but Wood cleverly avoided getting into trouble. After being cut by his left eye early in the fifth round, Wood was careful not to leave himself too open in coming forward and kept Lara out of range.

Wood's jab frustrated Lara throughout, and Lara looked fortunate to escape without a second count in the 10th round.

Catterall routs Foley, sets up Prograis bout

This was not the non-title fight Jack Catterall wanted, but he still produced a fluent boxing display in cruising to a unanimous-decision win over Darragh Foley.

Catterall (27-1, 13 KOs), 29, dropped fellow southpaw Foley (22-5-1, 10 KOs) in the ninth round and went on to win by scores of 99-88, 98-89 and 97-90.

After Catterall missed out on a rematch with Josh Taylor, the WBO junior welterweight champion, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn is now lining up Catterall to challenge WBC junior welterweight champion Regis Prograis (28-1, 24 KOs) in September or October. Matchroom promotes both Prograis and Catterall, making the fight more likely.

England's Catterall had been set to face Taylor again this year, but the fight got postponed and Taylor then decided on a different route. Taylor, from Scotland, won a controversial split decision for all four super lightweight titles against Catterall in February 2022, and Catterall's career had lost momentum since that fine performance through inactivity.

This was Catterall's first fight since the loss to Taylor, and once again the Chorley-based boxer, whom most of the crowd in Manchester had turned up to see, was impressive.

"It's been a tough 15 months, but it was good to get back out there," Catterall said. "He was a great opponent for me. He didn't stop trying, so all credit to him. I want to test myself against the best boys."

Foley, from Dublin, Ireland, but based in Sydney, Australia, has been more active than Catterall recently and stopped Robbie Davies Jr in three rounds in March.

But Catterall was sharper as he took control with his jab in the first round and then shook Foley with his third of three successive combinations.

Catterall continued to land thudding jabs straight through Foley's defense in the fourth and fifth rounds. Catterall was so in control that in the fifth round that he landed five quickfire jabs without reply.

Catterall dropped Foley to a knee with a left hook in the seventh round, but was instead docked a point by referee Marcus McDonnell for then hitting Foley with another left hook.

But Catterall found an opening again in the ninth round and sent Foley falling backward from a big left hand. Foley got up and stubbornly made it to the final bell.

Harper defends women's super welterweight title

After being left without a fight last weekend, Terri Harper made a successful first defense of the WBA women's world super welterweight title with a unanimous decision over late replacement challenger Ivana Habazin.

Harper (14-1, 6 KOs), 26, from Doncaster, England, was supposed to fight Cecilia Braekhus, the former women's No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer, in Dublin last Saturday, but an illness forced Braekhus to pull out on the day of the fight. Harper's promoter, Matchroom, found a new opponent for a week later, and Harper ensured there was no more disruption to her career by earning scores of 97-93, 97-93 and 98-92 in a routine win.

This was another step in the right direction for Harper after a points win over fellow Briton Hannah Rankin in September to become a two-weight world champion, which followed a defeat to Alycia Baumgardner for the WBC world junior lightweight title in November 2021.

Habazin (21-5, 7 KOs), a former world welterweight champion from Croatia, had fought only once since losing on points to American Claressa Shields in January 2020, but she was sharp enough to make it a competitive fight.

Harper staggered Habazin in the second round, but the Croatian recovered to be more of a threat in the third round and caught Harper with a decent right hook in the fifth round.

Harper produced the more quality punches throughout, including an uppercut in the eighth and a hard straight right in the ninth round.

Natasha Jonas, Harper's rival English boxer, holds the WBC, WBO and IBF titles in the division but works with a rival promoter to Harper. Jonas and Harper fought to a draw in 2020.

"It's the fight everyone wants to see," Harper said.