The saga of Leo Santa Cruz’s title defense against English contender Leigh Wood took another turn Wednesday afternoon. This, as the WBA reversed course after ordering Santa Cruz-Wood and will now let their “Super” champion fight WBC new title holder Rey Vargas later this year instead.
The WBA made the announcement online and through their social media that “regular” champion Wood will fight Mauricio Lara instead, but the winner of that fight is allegedly assured a bout with the winner of Santa Cruz-Vargas,
WBA Approved Santa Cruz-Vargas and Wood-Lara https://t.co/fgotp2R35I
— WBA Boxing (@WBABoxing) August 24, 2022
“The World Boxing Association (WBA) Championships Committee approved the joint permit requested by Matchroom Boxing and TGB Promotions to allow featherweight super champion Leo Santa Cruz to face Rey Vargas in a unification fight and featherweight champion Leigh Wood to make a defense against Mauricio Lara.
Both fights were approved with the condition that the super champion will face the champion to define the sole champion of the category within 120 days after the fight between Santa Cruz and Vargas.
It should be noted that the WBA, in the midst of world title reduction plan, ordered the Santa Cruz-Wood last April 6, 2022. On July 11, TGB requested a permit to make the Santa Cruz Vargas, which was denied on July 15 by the championships committee, which called for a purse bid for Santa Cruz-Wood.
On August 12, both companies sent a communication stating that they had reached an agreement and the purse bid was suspended. Subsequently, on the 22nd of that same month, the joint permission was requested in which the Santa Cruz-Vargas and the Wood-Lara were requested, with the commitment that both winners would face each other in the established term to define the only champion.
The Championships Committee made the decision based on the internal rules of the organization. Rule C.16 states that the body may modify the periods of mandatory defenses for good cause, either in response to a request for special permission or on its own initiative.
In addition, Rule C.46 states that the BMA may suspend or modify the strict application of these rules when it deems justified in its sole discretion to accommodate special circumstances. Such reasons include “participating in an optional title defense”, “participating in a bout of recognized importance and significance to the boxing world”, “extending or modifying a mandatory defense period”, or for any reason the Committee and the President deem just.
The WBA sent the resolution to the parties and once both fights are fulfilled there will be no more permits. The next fight must be between the super champion belt holder and the champion, to define the sole monarch of the division.”
As Our Dan Rafael wrote last month, the WBA has been dragging their feet on making Santa Cruz defend against their mandatory challenger Wood. He wrote then,
“WBA president Gilberto Mendoza was strongly considering allowing the fight (Santa Cruz-Vargas) 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….
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 non-title 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 back in July. “And we are going to follow it.”
As it turns out, they didn’t follow it.
Rafael reacted negatively on Wednesday night to the WBA ruling on social media and actually Wood’s promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, responded to him,
It's not up to the camps to agree to title fights in teh interim after the mandatory was ordered AND both sides told the #wretched WBA there was a deal. It's up to the sanctioning body to determine whether its title/titles will be available not the fighters/promoters. https://t.co/5euVR0p3di
— Dan Rafael (@DanRafael1) August 24, 2022
Dan went on to respond to Hearn that the WBA should not have belts at stake for these two bouts after what they ordered/then reversed and specifically, because Lara isn’t even currently ranked at 126 lb. by them to fight Wood for a belt.
Now, we’ll wait for the Santa Cruz-Vargas bout to finalize and what else comes next.