The respective teams of Leo Santa Cruz and Leigh Wood have run out of ways to avoid one another.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that plans are in place to reorder the long overdue WBA featherweight title consolidation clash. The two were prepared to enter separate fights but are now once again forced to sit back down at the negotiating table.
ESPN Deportes’ Salvador’ Chava’ Rodriguez was the first to reveal the development.
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 title unification bout between Santa Cruz and WBC titlist Rey Vargas (36-0, 22KOs), who outpointed Philippines Mark Magsayo on July 9 in San Antonio.
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. Santa Cruz-Vargas was suddenly back in play, while Wood was due to defend against Mexico’s Mauricio ‘Bronco’ Lara on September 24 in Nottingham. The WBA gave in and granted a one-time exception.
That ship has once again sailed.
Wood (26-2, 12KOs) suffered an injury which forced him to drop out of the September 24 DAZN main event. There were talks at the time of the fight being rescheduled, though BoxingScene.com has since learned that Lara will now likely land on an October 22 DAZN show featuring WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez at a location to be determined in Mexico.
If there is paperwork indicating that Santa Cruz-Vargas was officially signed, it comes without the knowledge of anyone involved in approving the fight. PBC only has two confirmed dates on the schedule as this goes to publish—October 8 (Showtime) and October 15 (Fox Sports Pay-Per-View). Neither show includes this fight, which presumably is no longer on the table until the two WBA featherweight titles in existence are finally consolidated.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox