Weekend Review: Big nights for Maurico Lara, Luis Nery, Ardreal Holmes

A critical look at the past week in boxing


Mauricio Lara – Sometimes power is enough. Hometown favorite Leigh Wood was well ahead on the cards and seemingly in control of his first 122-pound title defense when Lara changed the trajectory of the fight instantaneously Saturday in Nottingham, England. A perfectly timed left hook put Wood down and hurt him with about 20 seconds left in Round 7. He was able to get up but his legs were shaky. Referee Michael Alexander evidently was prepared to allow Wood to continue but his trainer wasn’t. Ben Davison threw in the towel with six seconds remaining in the round, saving his fighter from more punishment and giving Lara (26-2-1, 19 KOs) his first world title. The new champ might not want to rely too often on his power to turn defeat into victory – that punch might not land the next time – but it served him well in this case. That stoppage will be a candidate for the 2023 Knockout of the Year.



Leigh Wood career arc changed in an instant.  Marc Atkins / Getty Images

Leigh Wood – Wood (26-3, 16 KOs) was coming off the biggest victory of his career, his sensational 12th-round knockout of Michael Conlan in the 2022 Fight of the Year. And he seemed to build on that momentum for six-plus rounds against Lara, boxing well, outworking Lara, controlling the plot. Things couldn’t be going better. Then BAM! Wood, who had been upgraded to full champion in December, lost his title and his momentum came to a sudden halt, which left him in tears after the fight. Yes, boxing can be cruel. The good news for him might be a rematch clause that entitles him to another shot at Lara. Promoter Eddie Hearn, who handles both men, expects Wood to exercise the option. If he does, you have to like his chances given his performance for six-plus rounds but it would be a challenge. Lara’s power isn’t going anywhere. In the meantime, Wood has some emotional wounds that must heal.



Luis Nery vs. Azat Hovhannisyan – Nery (34-1, 26 KOs) could be the Biggest Winner here. A dramatic 11th-round knockout in a 122-pound title eliminator in Pomona, California, leaves the former two-division beltholder a step away from another title fight, which is exactly where he wants to be. However, it was the entertainment value of the fight that stands out. Nery, a good boxer, wasn’t necessarily interested in a toe-to-toe war but the rugged, relentless Hovhannisyan (21-4 ,17 KOs) gave him no choice. The result was a 2023 Fight of the Year candidate. And, of course, great fights often have great finishes: Nery put Hovhannisyan down with a three-punch combination in Round 10 and then finished him off in the following frame. The fans couldn’t have asked for more from these two warriors. One more thing: Hovhannisyan lost an important fight, which is tough to accept, but he undoubtedly earned many admirers with his gutsy performance.



Did Davison stop the Lara-Wood fight too soon? No. The most important responsibility of a trainer is to protect the welfare of his fighter. He took a good look at Wood after the fight-changing knockdown, didn’t like what he saw and threw in the towel. Job well done. Skeptics might say, “But there were only six seconds remaining in the round.” One or two more punches in that time could do a lot of damage and there was another round to go even if he survived Round 11. … Ardreal Holmes (13-0, 5 KOs) turned in a good performance against Ismael Villarreal (12-1, 8 KOs) in a battle of 154-pound prospects Friday in Topeka, Kansas, winning a split decision. The tall, lanky Holmes used his long jab, straight rights, movement and holding to frustrate the aggressive, but ineffective Villarreal most of the fight. That formula could take Holmes a long way, although he might want to throw more punches to leave no doubt about his superiority. … I scored the Holmes-Villarreal fight 98-92 for Holmes, eight rounds to two. He won the fight because two judges also gave him the nod, 97-93 and 96-94. The third, Karen Holderfield of Arkansas, scored it 96-94 for Villarreal. That means she somehow found six rounds to give to Villarreal, who struggled almost the entire fight. The loser’s father-trainer Otilio Villarreal seemed to agree, telling his son he needed a knockout to win the fight going into the 12th and final round. I don’t want to be too harsh. I guess she was impressed by Villarreal’s aggression. At the same time, her card seemed off … way off.

Luis Nery stops Azat Hovhannisyan in 11th round of thrilling brawl

Mauricio Lara stops Leigh Wood with monster left hook to win title

Ardreal Holmes defeats Ismael Villarreal by split decision on ‘ShoBox’

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