Josh Warrington’s plans to take on Can Xu and Gary Russell Jr in super-fights that would help decide supremacy in the featherweight division were dealt a devastating blow on Saturday night when he was stopped inside nine rounds by Mauricio Lara at Wembley.
The fight was meant to be a stepping stone for the Leeds Warrior to more lucrative fights with WBA feather champion Xu and the WBC champion Russell Jr, with either fight likely to have had the much sought after Ring magazine belt on the line. Now Warrington, previously undefeated in 30 fights, will likely have to go back to the drawing board.
Mexico’s Lara, while largely unheralded before tonight, was earmarked as a potential “banana skin” by Warrington and the 22-year-old certainly lived up to the tag.
"This is why it's the best sport in the world. No-one gave Lara a chance but we knew he could fight. We didn't think he'd beat the number one featherweight but he did,” said Warrington’s promoter Eddie Hearn.
"I've haven't seen bravery in the ring like I saw from Warrington in a long, long time.
"Warrington was erratic. The ring-rust showed. He got caught and never recovered.”
Warrington last fought in 2019 and the 16 months out of the ring were painfully clear. The 30-year-old accumulated a lot of rust in his time out and never really looked like the boxer who we’ve become accustomed to.
Lara came out like a man possessed throwing reckless hooks at Warrington from the opening bell, forcing the Yorkshireman to think on his feet from the get-go. Disaster struck in the fourth when a flurry of hurtful hooks sent Warrington to the canvas. Weathering the storm to see out the round, in the fifth Warrington’s legs still seemed unsteady but the 30-year-old did well to survive the onslaught.
Unfortunately, the nightmare continued and as the rounds progressed Lara was firmly in the driver’s seat, seemingly getting stronger with every punch and although Warrington had some success with the counter, those fights with Xu and Russell were looking further away than ever.
The end came in the ninth round when a vicious left hook sent Warrington to the canvas for the final time sealing a colossal upset for the Mexican.
Speaking after the fight, Lara said, "Our confidence was because we believed. I didn't want to tire myself out because I know he's number one in the world.
"There's a tinge of sadness because I haven't got the belt but maybe that will come."
Elsewhere on the card, Nottingham’s Leigh Wood claimed the British featherweight belt and handed Reece Mould the first defeat of his career with an eighth round stoppage of the Doncaster fighter. Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett was given a tough night in the office by Spaniard Kiko Martinez but did enough to win a unanimous decision on the scorecards. One judge scored the fight 118-111 to Barrett which Hearn branded as “disgusting.”