Luis Alberto Lopez showed why he could be the best featherweight in boxing by stopping Michael Conlan in Round 5 and defending his IBF World Championship title in Saturday’s Main Event of a Top Rank Card in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) dominated Conlan throughout the fight, landing his right uppercut at will until the same punch finally sent Conlan to the canvas. Then his corner kick threw in the towel. Conlan (18-2, 9 KOs) may not be a title contender anymore, so what should be next for him?
Lopez said after the fight he wanted to unify the titles. So what are the best options for him in a talent-packed division?
In Manchester, England, Leigh Wood reclaimed the WBA featherweight world title with a unanimous decision win over Mauricio Lara in the rematch. Wood was patient and held Lara at the end of his shots to set scorecards of 118-109, 118-109, and 116-111.
Wood (27-3, 16 KOs) now has many options including a trilogy fight with Lara, but can he beat the other champions in the division? And how can Lara (26-3-1, 19 KOs) recover from the loss? Can he do better in a third fight with Wood?
Ben Baby and Nick Parkinson watch the results and reveal what could be next for the fighters.
Lopez is elite, but what about Conlan’s future?
Lopez has proven that his run as the world featherweight champion is legitimate. In a fight that was set to be tough on paper, Lopez used strength and an unorthodox style to stop Conlan from holding the IBF belt in the 126-pound class.
Now it’s time for Lopez to solidify his claim as the division’s No. 1 contender – by taking on Robeisy Ramirez in a unification bout. Ramirez won the vacant WBO belt in April with an impressive win over veteran Isaac Dogboe. The former Cuban Olympian will face Satoshi Shimizu in his first title defense in July.
After a narrow win over Josh Warrington last December, it might have been easy to write Lopez off. But in what was billed as a 50-50 match in the sportsbook, Lopez was clearly the better fighter.
Lopez-Ramirez should be a doable fight for the fall. It has the potential to be a truly entertaining fight in one of boxing’s most exciting divisions.
The defeat also means Conlan is back at the drawing board after a 2-0 loss in the title fight.
Conlan has a steep hill to climb if he is to be considered a featherweight contender – and secure another title shot. Aside from Lopez, Rey Vargas, Wood and Lara all have championship pedigrees to their credit. That doesn’t include Eduardo Ramirez or Brandon Figueroa, the latter someone who gave Stephen Fulton everything he had to handle in a 122-pound title fight in 2021. It’s hard to see Conlan as a serious contender without significant improvement. — Infant
What’s next for Wood and is he good enough to unify the belts?
After defeating Lara, Wood made it clear what he wanted next: to fight at the City Ground, home of English Premier League team Nottingham Forest.
Wood doesn’t seem to mind who’s in the opposite corner of the outdoor venue. If it’s his English rival Warrington, a former champion, or Lopez, the IBF featherweight champion, he will defeat them both.
Warrington would help increase gate revenue; A former IBF champion, he is a big ticket seller from Leeds. The fact that Warrington was beaten by majority decision by Lopez in his last fight and also stopped by Lara in 2021 doesn’t matter. Wood-Warrington has been talked about in the UK for some time and would sell well.
The chance for Wood to win a second world title in his hometown will also be attractive.
“Warrington makes sense,” Wood told DAZN in his post-fight interview. “[A] Lopez Unification Fight [too]. Whoever. I probably have two fights left, a City Ground and another Unification.”
Wood’s career has been an unlikely boxing fairy tale, going from home to elite in just two years and Lopez would be a risk if Wood were looking to end his career in victory.
34-year-old Wood provided another twist in the story, convincingly defeating featherweight No. 1 Lara. After knocking Lara down with an uppercut in the second round, Wood expertly continued a powerful punch at Lara from long range.
In this form, Wood is able to put in another disciplined and smart performance and beat Lopez, who also impressed on Saturday. Lopez might be a tougher fight than Warrington, but Wood has taken risks throughout his career. — Parkinson’s
What can Lara do after a miserable weekend?
Lara went into the fight as ESPN’s No. 1 featherweight, but he’ll now be back to thinking about his future at 126 pounds. The British Boxing Board of Control was so concerned about his weight at inspection earlier in the week that it insisted he should not fall below 128.5lbs at Friday’s weigh-in.
This meant Lara went into the fight without his WBA belt and with Wood having other options, a trilogy fight seems unlikely for Lara’s next move.
If Lara does decide to stay at featherweight, there are possible classic duels with Lopez, who looked sensational in a five-round KO of Conlan on Saturday, or Vargas. Lopez is the IBF champion and Vargas is still the WBC king after losing his last fight at junior lightweight.
But Lara may need to rebuild before another title fight ensues. Lara was out of shape against Wood. Clearly something was wrong with his preparation for weighing nearly four pounds over the weight limit, and that may have affected the way he underperformed. — Parkinson’s