Leigh Wood still needs to convince the WBA that he is cleared for combat to retain his secondary title status.
A reminder letter was sent to Nottingham’s Wood seeking medical proof of a biceps injury that forced him out of a September 24 voluntary WBA ‘World’ (Regular) featherweight title defense against Mauricio ‘Bronco’ Lara. The WBA requested proof of injury on September 27, shortly before the sanctioning body declared that Wood must next face WBA ‘Super’ featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz in a long overdue title consolidation clash once he’s cleared to return to the ring.
Plans to stage any other fight will result in Wood having to relinquish his current secondary title status. For now, he will have until October 25 to comply with the WBA’s most recent ruling.
The World Boxing Association (WBA) sent a letter to the team of featherweight champion Leigh Wood to remind him to send the medical report requested last September 27,” the WBA declared in an October 20 ruling. “Wood was scheduled to fight Mauricio Lara last September 24 but had to suspend his fight due to an injury in one of his biceps, a situation that was reported by the international press.
“The resolution sent by the WBA ordered the fight between Wood and Leo Santa Cruz once the British fighter recovered from his injury and to estimate a prudent lapse of time, a report of his injury was requested to be studied by the WBA Medical Committee to determine a possible date. The body will give a five-day deadline to send documents related to the negotiations against Santa Cruz and Wood’s injury report.”
Santa Cruz-Wood was first ordered on April 6, as per a previous ruling permitting Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19KOs) and Wood (26-2, 16KOs) to enter separate fights in the first quarter of 2022.
Santa Cruz assured the WBA of his commitment to go through with the fight during a conversation last December, with the request of taking one stay-busy fight before returning to featherweight where he hasn’t fought since February 2019. The former four-division titlist outpointed Keenan Carbajal in a junior lightweight fight on February 5 in Las Vegas, then waited out the other side of the bracket to determine his next opponent.
Wood retained his secondary title with an off-the-canvas, come-from-behind 12th round knockout of unbeaten Michael Conlan in their instant classic on March 12 in Nottingham.
There was a stretch where it appeared that the teams for Santa Cruz (Premier Boxing Champions and TGB Promotions) and Wood (Matchroom Boxing, and the now-defunct MTK Global) were waiting for the other to give up their version of the title. The belief was that both would go their separate ways before we saw a title consolidation clash.
The WBA did their part to slow down that attempt, ordering the fight on April 6. The 30-day negotiation period went nowhere, in fact with the purse bid hearing stalled due to an appeal filed by Matchroom for Wood to receive closer to a 50/50 split rather than 75/25 in favor of Santa Cruz. The WBA ruled against the appeal, though while also rejecting a summertime request on behalf of Santa Cruz to face newly crowned WBC titlist Rey Vargas in a unification bout.
A purse bid hearing was finally ordered for August 12, only for the session to be suspended at the time when it was reported to the WBA that both sides reached an agreement. The fight was allegedly targeted for November 5 or 12, only to later learn that two separate bouts were sought—Wood-Lara on September 24 in Nottingham, and Santa Cruz-Vargas on an undisclosed fall date.
The WBA reluctantly offered its blessing, with the ruling that the winners must next meet. The combination of Wood’s withdrawal from the Lara fight and PBC/TGB failing to provide documented proof of Santa Cruz-Vargas moving forward prompted the sanctioning body to revert back to the originally ordered title consolidation bout.
The clock is ticking for Wood to comply with the WBA’s order, not to mention his promoter, Eddie Hearn, is on record stating he plans to revisit plans for Wood-Lara. Additionally, there is a plan for the winner to face whoever prevails between IBF featherweight titlist Josh Warrington and mandatory challenger Luis Alberto Lopez which takes place December 10 in Warrington’s Leeds hometown.
Such a route would leave Wood beltless, at least until he’s in a position to challenge for the IBF title.
“Pursuant to WBA Rule C.33, elimination for non-participation. If a boxer refuses to participate in a mandatory defense, elimination fight or box off, his title may become vacant, or he may be demoted or removed from the rankings,” the WBA reminded both parties.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox