Patience and discipline will be key for Leigh Wood when he attempts to win back the WBA featherweight world title from Mauricio Lara at Manchester Arena, England on Saturday.
Wood (26-3, 16 KOs), 34, admits a second successive defeat to the Mexican will likely end his time as an elite fighter in the division, following Lara's seventh-round stoppage win in February. If Wood is to salvage his career, he will have to produce an upset against Lara, who leads ESPN's featherweight rankings. Wood is ranked at No. 8.
"Bronco" Lara (26-2-1, 19 KOs), 25, from Mexico City, has shown dangerous power in stoppage wins over Wood and Josh Warrington, then the world's leading featherweight, in 2021.
But Wood was leading on all three judges' scorecards (58-56, 58-56 and 59-55) at the time of Lara's stoppage and insists he only needs to make small changes to alter the outcome in the rematch.
"It's frustrating that I was ahead on the scorecards and got caught, but I'm trying not to dwell on it," Wood told ESPN. "We're both big punchers but I know what happened and I know where I have him the opportunity. I made mistakes. I had a lot of success two rounds before the stoppage and I was letting my hands go, starting to hold my feet.
Wood, 34, from Nottingham, said he got a bit greedy and got caught by a counter hook as he threw a punch.
"There's a lot of small adjustments we have made and they will make a big difference with the momentum of the of the fight," Wood said. "A little bit of patience and the adjustments will help on the night. I will be getting my respect straight away and looking to build off from where I was in rounds five and six of the first fight."
Lara's conuterpunching was a problem for Woods in their first fight, and Woods said he was better than what he anticipated.
"He was not reckless as he has been in previous fights. He knew he couldn't rush in against me and I was the only person who has been able to push him back," Woods said.
Wood was unhappy when his trainer Ben Davison threw in the towel to stop the fight in the seventh round against Lara, who had dropped Wood with a left hook.
"As a fighter, I would have fought on because a fighter would always rather go out on their back but sometimes you need someone else to make the best decision for you," Wood added.
Wood produced a last round KO to defeat Can Xu for the WBA belt in July 2021 and did the same against Michael Conlan in March 2022, before suffering the loss to Lara, and he believes another loss will be a hammer blow to his career.
"If I lose this fight it would be very hard to come back from," Wood said. "That's why I've ticked every box and I'm going to put my mistakes right in the rematch."