Luis Alberto Lopez showed why he could be the best featherweight in boxing, stopping Michael Conlan in Round 5 to retain his IBF world title in the main event of a Top Rank card in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Saturday.
Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) dominated Conlan throughout the fight and landed his right uppercut at will, until that same punch put Conlan on the canvas for good. Afterward his corner threw in the towel. Conlan (18-2, 9 KOs) is probably done as a title contender, so what should be next for him?
Lopez said after the fight he wants to unify the titles, so what are the best options for him in a division full of talent?
In Manchester, England, Leigh Wood regained the WBA featherweight world title with a unanimous decision victory over Mauricio Lara in their rematch. Wood was patient and kept Lara at the end of his punches to earn scorecards of 118-109, 118-109 and 116-111.
Wood (27-3, 16 KOs) now has plenty of 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 look at the results and share what could be next for the fighters.
Lopez is elite, but how about Conlan's future?
Lopez proved that his run as a featherweight champion is legitimate. In what was supposed to be a tough bout on paper, Lopez used power and an unorthodox style to stop Conlan to keep the IBF belt in the 126-pound division.
Now it's time for Lopez to bolster his claim as the No. 1 fighter in the division -- by taking on Robeisy Ramirez in a title unification bout. Ramirez won the vacant WBO belt in April with an impressive win over veteran Isaac Dogboe. The former decorated Cuban Olympian will take on Satoshi Shimizu in July in his first title defense.
It might have been easy to write off Lopez after a narrow win over Josh Warrington last December. But in a fight that was billed as a 50-50 proposition on the sportsbooks, Lopez was clearly the better fighter.
Lopez-Ramirez should be a makeable fight for the fall. It has the potential to be a really fun fight in one of boxing's most exciting divisions.
The loss also means Conlan is back to the drawing board after falling to 0-2 in title fights.
Conlan has a steep hill to climb if he wants to be considered a contender at featherweight -- and get another title shot. Aside from Lopez, Rey Vargas, Wood and Lara have all displayed championship pedigree. That doesn't include Eduardo Ramirez or Brandon Figueroa, the latter someone who gave Stephen Fulton all he could handle in a 122-pound title fight in 2021. It's hard to consider Conlan as a serious contender without significant improvement. -- Baby
What's next for Wood and is he good enough to unify the belts?
After beating 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 is in the opposite corner at the outdoor venue. If it is his English rival Warrington, a former champion, or Lopez, the IBF world featherweight champion, he will take them both.
Warrington would help swell the gate revenue; as the former IBF champion, he is a big ticket-seller from Leeds. The fact that Warrington was beaten by Lopez by majority decision in his last fight, and also stopped by Lara in 2021, does not matter. Wood-Warrington has been talked about for a while in the UK and would sell well.
The chance for Wood to win a second world title in his home city will also be appealing.
"Warrington makes sense," Wood told DAZN in his post fight interview. "[A] Lopez unification fight [too]. Whoever. I probably have two fights left, City Ground one, unification another."
Wood's career has been an unlikely boxing fairytale, going from domestic level to elite in only two years, and Lopez would be a risk if Wood wants to end his career in winning fashion.
Wood, 34, produced another twist in the tale to convincingly beat the featherweight division's No. 1 in Lara. After flooring Lara in the second round with an uppercut, Wood expertly kept big-punching Lara at range.
On this form, Wood is capable of producing another disciplined and clever display to beat Lopez, who also impressed Saturday. Lopez might be a harder fight than Warrington, but Wood has been taking risks all of his career. -- Parkinson
What can Lara do after a miserable weekend?
Lara went into the fight as ESPN's No. 1 featherweight, but he will now be considering his future at 126 pounds again. The British Boxing Board of Control were so concerned by his weight at check earlier in the week that they insisted he should not drop below 128.5 pounds at Friday's weigh-in.
It meant Lara went into the fight already stripped of his WBA belt and since Wood has other options, a trilogy fight seems unlikely for Lara's next move.
If Lara does decide to stay at featherweight, there are potential classic matchups with Lopez, who looked sensational in a five-round KO of Conlan on Saturday, or Vargas. Lopez is IBF champion and Vargas is still WBC king after losing his last fight at junior lightweight.
But Lara perhaps needs to rebuild before another title shot. Lara was out of sorts against Wood. Clearly there was something not right with his preparation to come in nearly four pounds over the limit and this may have impacted the way he under-performed. -- Parkinson