Mauricio Lara sent shockwaves through the sports world in February when he brutally eliminated the featherweight division’s best, Josh Warrington. And on Saturday night, he swears he will do the same again.
The little-known 23-year-old, then 22, who had two defeats on his record of 24 fights and only a month to prepare for the fight, barely got a chance leading up to what was expected to be a routine outing for Warrington, who was just meant to shed some ring rust after 16 months before moving on to more glamorous business.
With history in mind, Warrington left his IBF belt in search of the Ring Magazine belt with future fights against then-WBA champion Xu Can and WBC king Gary Russel Jr firmly in the pipeline.
But Lara – who should have been just a speed bump on the journey – proved to be anything but, as he derailed his opponent’s plans in nine devastating rounds. And in reality it could and should have been a shorter night for the Mexican.
The seriously impressive and alarmingly heavy-handed Lara had a Jelly-legged but typically tough Warrington on the canvas twice, first in the fourth round, before referee Howard Foster finally turned the fight down in the ninth, with the Yorkshireman with a broken jaw, a shoulder injury. , a perforated eardrum and elbow surgery.
Mauricio Lara (L) shocked the world with a stunning victory over Josh Warrington in February
Referee Howard Foster waved the fight off after nine brutal rounds, during which Warrington was knocked down twice, although he showed a huge heart the entire time
Now, in a few days, Lara agrees that the rematch will be different from the first encounter. But the Mexican insists his opponent will be shaken awake as he plans to appease the Yorkshire crowd as they headline a packed card at Headingly Stadium in Warrington’s home city of Leeds.
“I think it will be different,” Lara said. “I think he will come up with a strategy and he will also try to put on a good show for his supporters. But I think that would be almost suicide against me, because we have a clear strategy and one that is going to lead to victory.”
He added: ‘There is absolutely no fear (of fighting in Warrington’s backyard). I think Canelo (Alvarez) said that before, “no fear”, and I feel that too. When we go into September 4, no matter how many people will be there and screaming, just me and him in the ring — and that’s what I’ll focus on.”
British boxing is becoming increasingly accustomed to a ‘repeat-or-revenge’ scenario, as seen when Anthony Joshua avenged his shocking defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, and when Dillian Whyte’s horrific knockout defeat to Alexander Povetkin left behind with a one-sided abandonment rematch win just a few months ago.
The British ended up winning in both occasions, with many expecting it to happen again. So has Warrington, who has gone on to talk about overlooking Lara in their first fight, even admitting seeing his opponent warm up on the night of the fight thinking, “He’s not in my class, there is no way he’s going to win”.
Britain’s Anthony Joshua (L) and Dillian Whyte (R) both won in their recent rematches
But Lara is upset that Warrington insisted he overlooked the Mexican, with the 23-year-old saying a full camp will only make him more destructive this time around.
Unsurprisingly, Warrington’s comments made Lara angry, and he now wants to prove that he was and still is a better fighter. And with a full camp under his belt, he insists he will only be more dangerous.
“The worst thing you can do is underestimate someone, especially me,” he explained. ‘I’m going to show on September 4 that it wasn’t luck, it wasn’t a coincidence.
“If you think last time I only had a month to prepare for the fight, this time I’ve had four. So if you saw what I was capable of after a month of preparation, just imagine what I can do after four hours.
“A lot of effort has gone into creating what happened,” he added. ‘That’s why it motivates me a lot. This has become personal. I feel like he really underestimated me and I think that was a big mistake.”
After his stunning victory, all-new expectations are now placed on Lara’s shoulders. Having fought just once outside of Mexico, in Argentina, prior to their first fight, the youngster felt he had nothing to lose for his historic scalp.
Now he headlines a gigantic event in front of an audience of 20,000 people. Lara is certainly on the brink of a world title fight and another great payday – an opportunity that would likely evaporate with defeat.
Lara and Warrington previously faced each other in a behind closed doors The SSE Arena, Wembley
But the previously little-known Lara is now the center of attention and headlines for 20,000 fans at Headingly Stadium in Leeds, Warrington’s home city
Mauricio Lara .’s record
Win streak: 12
But does he feel the pressure? “No, not at all,” he explains. ‘I will be able to repeat what I have done. As for the fight, you can look at what Josh Warrington will bring. He knows what to expect from me, but I know what to expect from him – so at least I’m going into it with more confidence, knowing what I can do.”
But at the other end of the spectrum is Warrington, who at age 30 and after a devastating defeat is on his way to a truly career-defining match-up. With the win, the Yorkshireman can begin his quest for a place in history again. With a defeat, that search may come to a halt.
It is a prospect that Lara admits that Warrington is becoming a more dangerous challenge, but the Mexican insists that any plans or ambitions his opponent may have before the fight will quickly dissipate once he feels the power again.
“Yeah, it’ll be dangerous,” Lara agreed, when asked if he’d be dealing with another Warrington this time. “And he’s home too, so that can make him feel more dangerous.
“But you have to ask the question, why are we fighting in his backyard? There may be a little more pressure on our side, but we are confident that we will be able to carry out our plan.
“He’ll have to have a lot of plans,” he added. “Because as soon as he feels that shot on September 4, that first hard blow, he’s going to have a hard time.”
Lara insists Warrington’s plans will crumble once he makes contact with his first punch
Lara now plans to take over the featherweight division; he wants to be number 1. And this time it’s Warrington who is the speed bump on the journey. But while his eyes are firmly on the prize, Lara admits that his famous win changed his life forever.
“Right now I don’t think it’s that important,” Lara said when asked about the financial gain from his first win. “But it’s true that it changes my life and is a big thing for my family. Personally, it’s something that makes me very happy and that you dream about when you go boxing.
‘You do think about the economic side of things, but at the same time I box because I’m passionate about it. I would fight almost for free.’
He added: ‘My life changed significantly after the first fight. I am not only talking economically, but also from an emotional point of view.
“It made me a better person, a better boxer, it showed the world – if they didn’t already know it – that Mexicans have this strength, and we have the balls when it comes to fighting. It doesn’t matter where we fight, it doesn’t matter.
“And if I’m going to win, I’m ready to face any champion who gives me the chance.”