Josh Warrington is ready to replace Leigh Wood as the challenger to WBA featherweight champion Mauricio Lara if the nature of Wood's defeat by the Mexican rules him out of an immediate rematch.
Wood was winning on the scorecards when he was dramatically stopped in the seventh round of his second title defence in February, having also been cut in the first, but at the fight’s conclusion his promoter Eddie Hearn revealed that he has a rematch clause.
That the 34-year-old was moved to tears by the defeat and that his trainer Ben Davison’s decision to throw in the towel after witnessing the heavy knockdown – Warrington, who had previously lost to Lara, believes Davison acted correctly – divided opinion means he is expected to pursue an immediate rematch, but Warrington remains hopeful that he can capitalise on the uncertainty that exists.
Warrington was ringside in Nottingham because of his understanding that he was in contention to fight the winner, and he told ProBox TV: “He was cut, and it looked like a nasty cut – that ain’t something that’s going to heal within a week or two. He’s probably going to need at least six weeks – with a knockdown like that you don’t want to be sparring for at least a month or so.
“So before he gets back into the gym and starts building back up, he might not be out until the second half of the year. It could be August time, so why not squeeze Lara in with me?
“I was looking to get the winner of them. Luis Alberto Lopez ain’t interested in having a rematch with me, for whatever reason.
“I’d like to think around May, June time [will be the date of my next fight. But] if we get to fight Lara and it gets delayed to July then I’d wait until then.”
Warrington lost to the 25-year-old Lara over the course of nine one-sided rounds in February 2021, and their rematch that September was stopped in the second round and ruled a technical draw when Lara was cut by an accidental clash of heads.
Lara's victory over Wood – who has since said he would be "heartbroken" to not receive an immediate rematch – demonstrated the extent to which his power means he poses a consistent threat, but he also had periods of looking one-dimensional, contributing to Warrington relishing the prospect of a third fight with him, even before the Mexican spat at him after the victory over Wood and made their rivalry “personal”.
“It’s the lowest of the low, isn’t it, spitting?” the 32-year-old former IBF champion said. “There were times I was watching Mauricio Lara in the corner, trying to read his body language, and there were times when he was looking uncomfortable, and there were a moment or two when he glanced over and caught my eye. There were a moment where his trainer turned around and pointed to me as well. I’m fucking fuming.
“For me, it’d never been personal until him spitting at me. I’ve never felt hatred towards another fighter – even when I had the rivalry with [Lee] Selby and [Kid] Galahad. Nothing to the level I have with Lara. I said to Leigh – I went into his changing room after and said, ‘If I get the Lara III fight I’ll sort you out’. I’d give him a chance to try and win his belt back.”