WBA Reverses Their Reversal Re-Orders Santa Cruz-Wood
The WBA is back to square one at featherweight.
In the organization’s attempt to reduce the number of world titles it sanctions — in other words, to get down to one titleholder per division as it’s supposed to be — the WBA has steadily been ordering its “super” titleholders to face the “regular” titleholders in mandatory fights.
Earlier this year, it finally ordered featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz, who has not defended the belt since February 2019 while fighting three times as a junior lightweight, to face “regular” titleholder Leigh Wood. But it was never as easy as that.
Eventually, contrary to its previous order, the WBA changed its decision in August and agreed to sanction a unification fight between Santa Cruz and WBC titlist Rey Vargas — date to be determined — while also agreeing to sanction Wood in a “regular” defense against Mauricio Lara. When Wood-Lara was approved, Lara was unranked by the WBA, which is against the rules, but then found himself in the new set of rankings soon after despite having not fought.
But then Wood suffered a biceps injury two weeks before they were to meet on Sept. 24, forcing the fight be canceled.
With that fight off and nothing new on a Santa Cruz-Vargas date, the WBA issued a resolution on Friday in which it rescinded its approval of Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19 KOs), 34, of Rosemead, California, and Wood (26-2, 16 KOs), 34, of England, having interim bouts and once again ordered them to face each other as it seeks to speed up the process of getting down to one titleholder per weight class.
The WBA resolution, copy of which was obtained by Fight Freaks Unite and Big Fight Weekend, went through the whole saga before making the order.
As the resolution explained, the WBA first ordered Santa Cruz-Wood on April 6, but on July 11 TGB Promotions, Santa Cruz’s promoter, requested a special permit to sanction a unification bout between Santa Cruz and Vargas.
The WBA denied the request on July 15 and ordered a purse bid for Santa Cruz-Wood at a 75-25 split in favor of Santa Cruz. On Aug. 12, TGB Promotions and Matchroom Boxing, Wood’s promoter, informed the WBA that they had made a deal and the purse bid was canceled.
Ten days later, according to the WBA, TGB and Matchroom told the WBA that they had agreed that Santa Cruz would face Vargas and Wood would defend against Lara with the winners agreeing to fight each other no later than 120 days after the Santa Cruz-Vargas fight. (There is no evidence that Vargas or Lara agreed to those terms.)
On Aug. 24, the WBA approved the interim fights despite having previously ordered Santa Cruz-Wood. Then Wood suffered the biceps tear and fight with Lara was called off in mid-September. WBA president Gilberto Mendoza told Fight Freaks Unite that the WBA never received any medical documentation of Wood’s injury, which the WBA viewed as an issue.
In the decision the WBA included in Friday’s resolution, it said, “Wood and his team must advise the WBA immediately of his medical condition and any injury, to be evaluated by the WBA Medical Committee, which will advise the Championships Committee on a time frame for his return” and that upon Wood’s return he must face Santa Cruz. Further, if the sides don’t make a deal the purse bid split remains 75-25 in Santa Cruz’s favor.
“No other permit will be granted until a single champion in the featherweight division is determined,” the resolution concluded.