YOU WOULD be forgiven for forgetting that Mauricio Lara is just 24 years old. The Mexican featherweight – who challenges Leigh Wood for a featherweight belt this weekend in Nottingham – looks unpolished and speaks with the assurance and nonchalance of one of boxing’s seasoned veterans.
It’s late afternoon in Mexico City. “Bronco” Lara, 25-2-1 (18), sits with his family and young daughter following a gruelling sparring session and tries to convince Boxing News why he’ll have his hand raised on fight night.
“Wood is a chicken. He couldn’t prove his injury from when we were supposed to fight last year – he just didn’t want to fight,” says Lara. “But now I guess it’s his opportunity to prove himself against me. I am at the very best point in my career at the moment, so he is going to have to bring something special to beat me. He has no exit available this time.”
A sell-out crowd is expected inside Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena this Saturday night. Lara’s opponent has been out of action since a dramatic win over Michael Conlan [rsf 12] last March – BN’s 2022 British Fight of the Year – and is priced as a sizeable underdog with bookmakers no doubt influenced by Lara’s breakout UK performance when he upset Josh Warrington in 2021.
“Coming back to England? Not a problem,” Lara continued. “Being an away fighter is enjoyable for me. England is like my second home and I knew I would have to return in order to get the opportunities I deserve. We know that English fighters run away from Mexican fighters [laughs], so I am the one that has to travel.
“The Nottingham fans can be as loud as the Leeds fans if they want, but that makes no difference to me. It comes down to just me and Wood in the ring – not the 5,000, 10,000 or more outside it.”
“Bronco” walked through Warrington emphatically to cause a huge upset in fight one but had to settle for a Technical Draw in the rematch due to a clash of heads in the second round.
“Mexicans are always underestimated,” he explained. “No one expected me to do what I did to Warrington – but in my eyes, he was never going to beat me. Wood is a different fighter but I don’t see anything special in him. He’s going to have to be special to beat me though, and if he does, he has the potential to be a great fighter.”
Lara is interrupted by his daughter, Aitanita, and it offers the perfect opportunity for him to underline why he has chosen the fight game.
“I fight for my family, so that they can have better lives. I had to fight to survive when I was younger, along with my seven brothers, and that’s made us tough now we are older. It’s the Mexican way. That’s why I fight how I fight in the ring too, not walking backwards, not retreating, just coming forward and showing aggression in the middle of the ring.
“If I am to become world champion then there will be more and more opportunities for me to provide. That’s what keeps me going each day. I will need to prove myself as the best in order to become world champion, but in my mind, there is no way that I will be leaving Nottingham without that belt. And I will make sure I keep my destiny in my own hands – I won’t be letting this fight go to the judges’ scorecards.
“I am not coming to England to be the ‘challenger’. I don’t follow the rules. That’s why I was given my nickname ‘Bronco’ by an old trainer – I am tough and can’t be tamed. I’ve been that way my whole life.”
Lara is sometimes flippant. He claims not to watch, or enjoy, others boxing, but this doesn’t hamper his dedication to the craft. Alongside his father, Gerardo Lara, and coaches Alejandro Garrido and Isaac Rivas, he has endured a detailed camp including sharing many spars with super-featherweight belt-holder Emanuel Navarrete, alongside some talented prospects.
Often, boxers will refuse to look beyond the task at hand. But Lara is happy to plan further ahead. “Once I beat Wood, I want Warrington next,” he exclaims. “It’s personal between me and him now. He talks so much shit about me outside of the ring, but is never able to do any of his talking inside it. This was proven again when he lost to Luis Alberto Lopez at the end of the year. He doesn’t respect us as Mexicans.
“I want to retire Warrington. And if I can do it in his own house then that is even better. He is a dirty fighter and I will need to be more aware of that if we fight for a third time. I know that Lopez now has the title, but Warrington is still a fight that I need to draw a line under.”
Becoming a world champion has been an obsession to the 24-year-old since that first Warrington fight and, consequently, is convinced that beating Wood is a mere formality. “It will have been two years since the first Warrington fight when I step into the ring with Wood and I’m confident of the same result,” he concludes. “If Wood wants to meet me in the middle of the ring then he will soon regret it – I am the biggest puncher in the division and in the best shape of my career. Nothing will save him this time.”