Three world title fights in three cities on three different television channels. British boxing breaks new ground this weekend and 32Red has the action covered. For the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.
There is plenty to get through so let’s not waste any time. Here is a quick guide to the world title action taking place around Britain this weekend. Enjoy your channel hopping!
Luis Alberto Lopez v Michael Conlan – IBF Featherweight title
This will be Conlan’s second attempt at a world title. Although he was stopped when leading in the 12th and final round by Leigh Wood in his previous title tilt, he performed brilliantly in one of 2022’s best fights.
The Nottingham Arena may have been Wood’s backyard. But Conlan’s army of Irish fans transformed it into their own little corner of Belfast. That atmosphere will pale in comparison to the noise they generate this weekend.
Conlan’s amateur achievements made him a folk hero amongst Irish boxing fans. His yearly appearances at the annual Féile festival have already become part of Belfast folklore. The opportunity to push him towards a world title will bring them out in force. Conlan is favourite to become world champion at 8/11.
Not that that will bother Mexican champion Luis Alberto Lopez. Lopez looked extremely comfortable when braving Josh Warrington’s fanatical support in Leeds last December to win the IBF featherweight title. The atmosphere outside the ring wasn’t the issue; Lopez only really looked in trouble when Warrington upped the intensity inside it.
He boxed brilliantly when given time and space but when Warrington got close and made it uncomfortable for him, small cracks began to show. Lopez began to look for help from the referee and although he held a sizeable advantage at the halfway point, a surging Warrington closed the gap on the cards over the second half of the fight. He held on for a majority decision. He is priced at 27/25 to defend his title.
Conlan can win this fight. Lopez is a good fighter and carries power but he can’t match Conlan for pure boxing ability. Conlan will have learned from the fight with Wood and should be able to prevent himself from getting carried away by the atmosphere and getting involved too soon.
There will be times over the first six rounds when Conlan will have no choice but to stand with Lopez but he is clever enough to pick his moments. If he holds a lead at the midway point, Conlan will be able to box, move and frustrate Lopez to win a points decision at 13/10.
Lawrence Okolie v Chris Billam-Smith – WBO Cruiserweight title
Almost six thousand miles from Belfast, another raucous home crowd will be roaring on their hometown favourite. In Bournemouth, Chris Billam-Smith will attempt to wrestle away the cruiserweight title from the man widely rated as the best 200lb man on the planet, Lawrence Okolie.
The hostile, partisan atmosphere might just provide Okolie with the spark he needs to produce an eye-catching performance. The Londoner has defended his belt three times but has lost all the momentum he built up on his march towards the title. At his best, Okolie looks unbeatable. He has knockout power and is tall, rangy, massive at the weight and able to totally defuse an opponent. He badly needs to put everything together this weekend to remind boxing fans what he is capable of.
In February he did little more than needed when outpointing the limited David Light. His ability to draw a crowd would suffer almost irreparable damage if he produces a similarly lethargic display. That shouldn’t happen. Okolie bounced straight into another training camp with ‘Sugar’ Hill and should be more motivated than ever. Okolie is favourite at 27/100.
Billam-Smith won’t allow Okolie to sleepwalk through the fight. ‘The Gentleman’ has been one of the most exciting fighters in British boxing over the past couple of years. He is willing to put himself in harms way in order to have his own success. Although he concentrates on doing the basics, he does them very well indeed.
Billam-Smith has arguably exceeded expectations and will pour his heart and soul into his effort this weekend. The pair sparred plenty of rounds when both trained under Shane McGuigan and he believes that although he is the smaller man, he is the more natural fighter. Billam-Smith is priced at 21/4 to drive himself to a hard fought decision.
Okolie will know that he will be facing a fiercely determined fighter intent on making things rough and uncomfortable for him. But if ‘The Sauce’ can find his range and timing, Billam-Smith will have to walk through hell in order to get inside those long slashing arms. This should be a fight that exceeds expectations, purely because Billam-Smith will put in the performance of his life. That in turn will draw a performance out of Okolie and it is he who should have that little extra ability and take a decision victory, available at 43/20.
Mauricio Lara v Leigh Wood – WBA Featherweight title
Mauricio Lara was an unknown when he travelled to England during the COVID pandemic and took Josh Warrington’s IBF featherweight title in brutal fashion behind closed doors. Since then he has become must-see television. Lara has the X-Factor. He has fight-ending power in either hand and he can deliver it at any moment. At times he looks ragged and amateurish but there is no substitute for raw power.
Leigh Wood got the full Lara experience in February. There were times when he was able to outbox the Mexican and then – boom – out of the blue Lara would turn the tide with heavy single shots. Wood can punch ferociously hard himself. But whereas Lara seemed to take his power reasonably well, Wood couldn’t withstand the fire coming his way. Lara won the WBA title in devastating fashion after seven thrilling rounds. He is 33/100 to repeat the feat.
Wood has had only three months to recover and retool following a heavy knockout loss. But it is easy to see why he believes he can turn things around. Lara has the type of style which looks straightforward to nullify. Tame him with long, straight shots, keep him at bay with a solid jab and dig hard to the body when the opportunity presents itself.
Any successful Lara-beating gameplan needs to guard against complacency. Lara can begin to look sorry for himself but is always capable of making somebody pay for overconfidence. Even though he is now 34 years old and suffered a heavy knockout last time, Wood will see a clear path to victory. He is available at 23/10.
So will Lara. He knows he can badly hurt Wood at any moment. Even if Wood is able to get into his groove and reel off a few rounds of control, Lara will always believe he is only a punch away from victory. Wood will be all too aware of that ever present danger too.
If Wood is able to turn this around and gain revenge over one of the sport’s most dangerous operators at 34 years old it will be a stunning achievement and one he is capable of pulling off. However, history tells us that when there has been a clear and definitive ending to a fight it is rare for the rematch to have a different outcome. Therefore, the pick has to be for Lara to win by knockout between rounds 9 and 10, priced at 23/4.