Leo Santa Cruz and Leigh Wood have been granted another two weeks to manipulate the sanctioning body whose featherweight titles they each hold.
Yet another round of negotiations has been ordered by the WBA for the long overdue featherweight title consolidation clash. A fifteen-day period has been assigned to the ordered fight, after which point it will head to a December 12 purse bid hearing during the WBA convention in Orlando, Florida.
The latest order comes after confirmation was received of Wood’s injury which prevented the Brit from moving forward with defending his secondary version of the WBA featherweight title.
“This report arrived on October 20, signed by Dr. Usman Rana, who said that the Briton should refrain from strenuous work with his left arm for a period of 4 to 6 to ensure a full recovery and avoid a relapse of the injury,” the WBA noted in its official re-ordering of the fight. “That 6-week period will expire next December 1, so the WBA championships committee carried out its analysis and considered that it is now time to restart the Santa Cruz-Wood negotiations.
“The 15-day period will be extended until December 7 and if there is no agreement by that time, the purse bid will be held at the Caribe Royale Hotel in Orlando, in the middle of the convention of the pioneer body.”
Wood was due to face Mexico’s Mauricio Lara on September 24, only for a biceps injury to cancel his planned hometown headliner in Nottingham, England. It came as plans fell apart for Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19KOs) to unify his WBA ‘Super’ featherweight title against WBC titlist Rey Vargas, who has since pursued a shot at the WBC junior lightweight title.
Santa Cruz has held the WBA ‘Super’ featherweight title since January 2017, though he hasn’t fought at the weight in more than three years. The long gap between title defenses prompted the WBA to get a commitment out of the four-division titlist, whose last three fights have taken place at junior lightweight. Santa Cruz assured the sanctioning body in writing last December of his intention to return to featherweight.
The commitment put him on the hook to face the winner of the WBA ‘World’ (Regular) title fight between defending secondary titlist Leigh Wood and then-unbeaten Michael Conlan this past March 12 in Wood’s hometown of Nottingham. Their epic clash saw Wood recover from an opening round knockdown and a scorecard deficit to emphatically knock Conlan out in the 12th and final round. The win marked the first defense of the secondary title he claimed in a 12th round knockout of Xu Can last July 31 in Brentwood, Essex, UK.
Santa Cruz was waiting in the wings, having outpointed Keenan Carbajal in a non-title fight on February 5 in Las Vegas. The fight was his first since an October 2020 knockout loss to Gervonta Davis to end his WBA junior lightweight title reign after just one fight.
The WBA ordered the fight on April 6, with the 30-day period ending without TGB Promotions (Santa Cruz) and Matchroom Boxing (Wood) reaching a deal or even coming close. The fight was destined for a purse bid, though the process was delayed by months due to Wood’s side protesting the purse split.
Matchroom argued on Wood’s behalf that the Brit was entitled to something closer to a 50-50 split as the more active fighter and emerging as the bigger draw since entering the title picture.
The request was denied. So, too—at the time—was a special permit request from TGB to instead stage a Santa Cruz-Vargas title unification. A purse bid hearing was ordered but canceled when TGB and Matchroom informed the WBA that a deal was reached, insisting that the fight would take place on a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) show on either November 5 or November 12.
That never came close to happening, as both sides sought to stage separate fights. The WBA granted what was claimed as a one-time exception, though neither fight materialized which put this bout—that clearly doesn’t interest either side—back on the table.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox