Otabek Kholmatov will have to wait his turn at least one more time.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the WBA approved a request placed on behalf of featherweight titlist Leigh Wood to proceed with an optional defense versus former two-time IBF titlist Josh Warrington. The bout was always targeted to take place in October, but its exact status was up in the air prior to the sanctioning body’s official decision.
“The World Boxing Association (WBA), through its championships committee, approved a special permit requested by Matchroom Boxing for featherweight champ Leigh Wood, to fight Josh Warrington,” WBA Championship Committee chairman Carlos Chavez confirmed in a ruling obtained by Boxing Scene. “Wood just regained the 126-pound crown in a rematch against Mauricio Lara last May and has a mandatory fight with [Otabek] Kholmatov.
“However, the champion’s team requested special permission from the WBA to make an optional fight against Warrington. After a review of the case and under various internal rules, the body decided to approve the fight on the condition that the winner, or Wood in case of a draw, will fight Kholmatov no later than 120 days after the bout.”
The development marks the second straight time that Kholamtov (11-0, 10KOs) will be bypassed for a mandatory title sho. This round comes after the sanctioning body formally ordered Wood t27-3, 16KOs) to next honor the agreement in place which allowed him to proceed with an immediate rematch versus Mexico’s Mauricio Lara.
Wood lost the WBA featherweight title after a stunning seventh-round knockout defeat to Lara on February 18 in his Nottingham hometown. The rematch just 14 weeks later saw Wood dominate en route to a landslide decision to regain his belt in Manchester, England.
The WBA ordered Wood-Kholmatov on May 30, just three days after Wood regained the title. Kholmatov was the mandatory challenger in waiting, following his sixth-round knockout of Thomas Patrick Ward in their March 4 title eliminator in Newcastle, England.
Talks never really got off the ground, with the matchup destined for a purse bid hearing—though the fight itself never likely to occur. Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn, Wood’s promoter, was open about his desire to instead make a Wood-Warrington fight.
A five-week delay followed, as Kholmatov’s team— promoter Svyatoslav Mangushev’s Miami-based Undisputed Boxing Championship outfit and manager Alex Vaysfeld—attempted to work out terms with Matchroom.
One suggested alternative was for Wood-Warrington to come with the title at stake while Kholmatov would face Camden, New Jersey’s Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7KOs), the next highest ranked WBA contender. The idea was the Wood-Warrington winner would leave the ring with the WBA title and then immediately vacate, with the Kholmatov-Ford winner subsequently named WBA featherweight titlist.
It remains to be seen if that scenario still takes place. For now, the 34-year-old Wood gets the best of both worlds—a high profile fight in what he considers the twilight of his career, and with the title still at stake.
“Rule C.16 states that the WBA may modify the periods of mandatory defenses for good cause, either in response to a Special Permit application, or on its own initiative,” stated Chavez. “For its part, the agency may modify or suspend the strict application of these rules when it deems justified in its sole discretion to accommodate special circumstances, as Rule C.46 states. While rule C.47 allows special permits to be granted under specific conditions, as has been the case.
“While the Wood-Warrington bout is taking place, Kholmatov will be allowed to make an optional fight against an opponent approved by the championship committee. Any problems or situations that arise in the course of the case will be resolved under WBA rules."
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox