The disappointment etched on the faces of Josh Warrington and Mauricio Lara ran as deep as the wide and bloody gash which opened above the Mexican’s left eye after the two fighters clashed heads in the second round of a contest which promised so much following a tense and absorbing opening six minutes. Most of the attention focused on Warrington – at least among the raucous yet ultimately deflated crowd of 20,000 in Leeds and those watching the fight on a live stream in Britain.
The 30-year-old Yorkshireman was desperate to gain some kind of redemption in the rematch after he had been knocked out by Lara when they met for the first time in February. Warrington had an excellent opening round, winning it clearly, as he boxed with more authority behind a high guard. He managed to combine caution with aggression, which is always a defining test of skill in the ring, and he was justifiably happy with the way he had come back from his distressing defeat to Lara almost seven months ago.
But it would be wrong to ignore the disappointment in Lara’s expression. He looked just as frustrated and aggrieved that the wound above his eye was so bad that the doctor at ringside had no option but to stop the fight. As they needed to box at least four rounds before the referee could turn to the judges’ scorecards to find a winner, a technical draw had to be announced. It was the correct decision, even in a business as haphazard as boxing.
Warrington suggested that he had been denied a certain victory and he apologised to his passionate supporters for the unfortunate and inconclusive ending. He also said that when he returned to his corner after the first round he could not believe he had lost to Lara in the first fight. Hopefully he would not have allowed himself such dangerous and complacent thoughts if the fight had continued.
Lara landed a few hard punches in the opening rounds which had two seasoned fighting men in Tony Bellew and Kid Galahad wincing at ringside. Bellew, a former world champion cruiserweight, and Galahad, who lost narrowly to Warrington in 2019, both highlighted the ominous threat of Lara’s punching power. He did not resemble a fighter looking for a way out after a nasty cut. The 23-year-old looked ready to begin serious work.
A third fight will be delayed because Eddie Hearn, Warrington’s promoter, said Lara could need up to six months to recover. Hearn wants Warrington to return to the ring before then – the implication being that he could fight one of his local rivals before he meets Lara again.
Galahad, from Sheffield, is now the IBF world featherweight champion and Warrington wants to win a title again. But he struggled against the awkward and elusive Galahad last time and Warrington insists he needs to “wipe the slate clean” against Lara. Another option would be for Warrington to meet Leigh Wood, the Nottingham featherweight, who shocked the WBA regular champion Xu Can by stopping him in the final round last month.
Galahad and Wood are both excellent and diligent operators, who would push Warrington hard, but the suspicion lingers that Lara remains the most testing of all opponents. Judging from the expressions on the faces of both men on Saturday night, neither Warrington nor Lara will be content until they have fought each other for a third time and settled their differences in a brutally conclusive way.