The lengthy delay in getting the WBA featherweight title consolidation bout over the line could work to the advantage of Thomas Patrick Ward.
An ordered featherweight title eliminator between County Durham’s Ward and Uzbekistan’s Otabek Kholmatov was announced by the WBA on Wednesday. The fight will determine the mandatory challenger to the overdue title consolidation clash between ‘Super’ champ Leo Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19KOs) and ‘World’ titlist Leigh Wood (26-2, 16KOs).
Ward will have a tough assignment on his hands. It’s the exact road that the unbeaten Brit envisioned as he is now one win away from his first major title shot.
“I’ve never had anything easy in my career, so I knew that getting a straight shot at the world title was probably never going to happen,” Ward said upon learning of the ordered eliminator. “But this is a final eliminator, so I know that when I win, I am next in the line for a shot at the world champion. Everything is now moving in the right direction.
“I want to challenge all the champions in the world. It’s great that Santa Cruz and Wood are fighting and the whole WBA world title situation is moving forward.”
Ward (33-0-1, 5KOs) advanced to the number-one spot in the WBA featherweight rankings through the combination of a March 25 win over Alexis Boureima Kabore in Newcastle and Michael Conlan’s stunning 12th round knockout loss to Wood earlier that month. He has since remained active with a third-round knockout of Ally Mwerangi on July 17 in Sunderland.
Kholmatov (10-0, 9KOs) landed a timely unanimous decision win over Adranik Grigorian in their March 26 semifinal title eliminator between unbeaten challengers. It marked the first distance fight for the 24-year-old Uzbek, who lives and trains in Hollywood, Florida and who only turned pro last August.
“I don’t know very much about Kholmatov, but traditionally the Uzbek fighters are very well schooled,” acknowledged Ward. “I am already prepared for that, but I believe I am the best featherweight in the world.”
The respective teams for Ward (Probellum) and Kholmatov (Undisputed Boxing Championships Promoters, and manager Alex Vaysfeld) have until November 4 to negotiate terms for their title eliminator to avoid a purse bid hearing.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox