The WBA, stung by mounting criticism of the slow pace of its efforts to follow through on the promise it made last summer to get down to one world titleholder per division, has issued key rulings at featherweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight.
At featherweight, where the WBA had already ordered “super champion” Leo Santa Cruz and “regular champion” Leigh Wood to meet in a mandatory fight, Santa Cruz’s team at Premier Boxing Champions and TGB Promotions instead were seeking an exception for a unification fight with newly crowned WBC 126-pound titlist Rey Vargas, who is also with them.
WBA president Gilberto Mendoza was strongly considering allowing the fight but ultimately the request for a special permit for the unification bout was rejected.
The WBA ordered Santa Cruz-Wood on April 6 and gave them 30 days to negotiate a deal otherwise a purse bid would be ordered. They did not make a deal but the purse bid was not ordered while they went back and forth about the purse split.
Then, on July 11, the WBA said it received a request for a special permit to sanction a Santa Cruz-Vargas unification fight.
On Friday, the WBA issued its ruling — a copy of it and the other rulings were obtained by Big Fight Weekend – in which the organization denied the request to sanction Santa Cruz-Vargas.
In addition to the denial, the WBA also ruled that “Santa Cruz must make his mandatory featherweight title defense against Leigh Wood. Leo Santa Cruz is hereby granted 24 hours to respond to this mandate.”
In a separate letter to Tom Brown of TGB Promotions and Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, Wood’s promoter, on Tuesday, Carlos Chavez, the chairman of the WBA championships committee, notified them that that if Santa Cruz-Wood goes to a purse bid the split has been established at 75 percent for Santa Cruz and 25 percent for Wood.
Santa Cruz has not defended the featherweight belt since February 2019 but fought three times at junior lightweight, where he also won the WBA title. He was allowed to simultaneously hold both belts, which is against WBA rules, and then lost the junior lightweight title by knockout to Gervonta Davis in October 2020.
Several months ago, the WBA finally asked Santa Cruz to notify the organization if he planned to return to featherweight. Santa Cruz told the WBA he would return to featherweight and make the mandatory defense against Wood but that he would like a warm-up fight to shake off the rust of his long layoff. The WBA allowed it and Santa Cruz outpointed Keenan Carbajal in a Feb. 5 nontitle bout. Now he is obligated to face Wood, although he could still face Vargas, just without the WBA title.
“I promised we would have one champion per division. That was the policy I created, a one champion policy,” WBA president Gilberto Mendoza told Big Fight Weekend on Tuesday. “And we are going to follow it.”
Mendoza said he knows there is more work to be done as there are still nine weight classes out of the 17 in which the WBA has a “super” and “regular” titleholder.
“I know it stalled for a little while but we are giving it a push and cleaning everything up. That is what I said we would do. We will get there,” Mendoza said of focusing on title reduction, which began last summer with the termination of all interim titleholders that had meant three titleholders in most divisions.
At super middleweight, the WBA issued a resolution in which it approved the special permit request from Gennadiy Golovkin, the unified WBA/IBF middleweight titleholder, to challenge undisputed super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 17 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, but with stipulations.
“Should Golovkin win the fight he will have five days (until Sept. 23) to inform this committee which title he wishes to keep and defend,” the WBA wrote in the ruling. “Should he decide to keep his middleweight title, he will have 120 days to defend the title against the mandatory challenger and (regular) champion Erislandy Lara.
“Should Golovkin lose the fight, he will have 120 to defend his title against the mandatory contender of the middleweight division, WBA (regular) champion Erislandy Lara. The WBA will not grant any other special permit.”
At cruiserweight, the WBA ordered “super” titleholder Arsen Goulamirian to next face “regular” titlist Ryad Merhy.
“The parties shall inform this committee within 24 hours whether they are fit and ready to fight in 30 days (by Aug. 15),” the ruling said. “The winner of the fight shall fight Aleksei Egorov in 90 days, provided the Russia-Ukraine conflict is over. Should the Russia-Ukraine not be over, the winner of the Goulamirian-Egorov bout shall fight against a mandatory contender selected by the committee.”
According to the WBA ruling, on Feb. 11, 2021, it ordered Goulamirian to face Russia’s Egorov and that a purse bid was held on Aug. 23, 2021 with the bout scheduled to take place on Dec. 10, 2021. However, one day before the fight Goulamirian tested positive for Covid-19 and the fight was postponed.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the WBA issued a resolution on Feb. 28 stating it would not approve title fights involving Russian boxers until the war was over.
Goulamirian has not defended the title since Dec. 28, 2019 and the WBA wrote in its resolution that he is “long overdue, as he has been inactive for 931 days.”