Wood vs Lara II, Okolie vs Billam-Smith And Why 27th May Is The Real Boxing Day

Plus: the return of Jack Catterall and Conlan vs Lopez
19:00, 22 May 2023

Between Devin Haney’s riveting but controversial win over Vasiliy Lomachenko and Chantelle Cameron’s thrilling upset win over Katie Taylor, Saturday was an embarrassment of boxing riches. But if you thought there was a lot of top-shelf action packed into last weekend, wait until you get a load of Saturday 27th May. There is so much world-level pugilism on show that we here at The Sportsman have decided to call it Boxing Day. Yes we have the authority to do that, please cross 26th December out on your calendars. 

To whet your appetite for an utterly stacked night of professional boxing, here is our rundown of everything on offer in the squared circle this Saturday.


Mauricio Lara vs Leigh Wood - WBA Featherweight Championship

A rematch with a refreshingly quick turnaround, these two got it on in Nottingham in February. Lara won the WBA title with with a seventh round TKO in that fight. His controversial post-fight antics, including spitting at former opponent Josh Warrington, did little to endear him to the British boxing faithful.

Wood is one of British boxing’s good guys and despite this rematch taking place in Manchester rather than his hometown like the first, you’d expect him to have the crowd’s backing. Can he use it to improve upon his performance in their initial meeting?

Lawrence Okolie vs Chris Billam-Smith - WBO Cruiserweight Championship

The former training partners meet outdoors at the Vitality Stadium, home of Chris Billam-Smith’s beloved AFC Bournemouth. Their familiarity has meant an even-tempered build, a world away from the macho posturing often seen at big fight press conferences these days.

This one will deliver in the ring though. One of those rare fights that represents a big step up for both boxers, Billam-Smith is vying for his first world title against the unbeaten but hitherto untested ‘The Sauce’. Okolie failed to leave first gear in his recent win over David Light. He’ll need to find a higher level to get through this tricky domestic dust-up.


Luis Alberto Lopez vs Michael Conlan - IBF Featherweight Championship

Michael Conlan received widespread plaudits for his stunning Fight of the Year contender with Leigh Wood last year. What the Irish star didn’t receive was the Nottingham man’s world title belt, after being knocked out by Wood in dramatic fashion in the 12th round.

Having racked up two victories since Wood inflicted his first pro defeat, Conlan has worked his way back into world title contention. This time it is the dangerous Luis Alberto Lopez who stands in his way. ‘El Venado’ is making the first defence of the IBF strap he won from Josh Warrington in the hostile atmosphere of Leeds last December. He won’t be daunted fighting in Conlan’s Belfast backyard. 

Jack Catterall vs Darragh Foley

It’s been a long road back for Jack Catterall. His controversial points loss to then-undisputed super lightweight champion Josh Taylor in February 2022 made him a star. The vast majority of fans thought he’d done enough to beat ‘The Tartan Tornado’ and he left the ring buoyed by fan support.

That momentum has been squandered, with return dates cancelled and a rematch scrapped due to an injury to Taylor. Now, 15 months removed from his agonising defeat to the Scotsman, Catterall returns. This bout with 22-4-1 Darragh Foley has been designed as a tune-up and ‘El Gato’ will be hoping for a dominant win to get his career back on track.

Mikael Lawal vs Isaac Chamberlain - British Cruiserweight Championship

Bournemouth’s big world title bout also boasts a very tidy British title fight on the undercard. Unbeaten Mikael Lawal puts his newly-won title on the line against Isaac Chamberlain in a really well-matched domestic scrap.

Chamberlain has mixed in fine company, with his only two career defeats coming in distance fights with the event’s main principals, Lawrence Okolie and Chris Billam-Smith. A first round knockout win over WBO title challenger Dilan Prasovic showed the sort of power he packs. For Lawal’s part, he too can bang. He’s on a run of four consecutive stoppage victories.

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