WBA says Santa Cruz must defend against Leigh Wood, denies request for Rey Vargas unification
By Brian Webber: The WBA has given World Boxing Association ‘Super World’ featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz 24 hours to accept a fight against ‘regular’ champ Leigh Wood.
They’ve also denied a unification match between Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19 KOs) against WBC champ Rey Vargas (36-0, 22 KOs).
It’ll be up to Santa Cruz, 33, and his management at PBC whether they’ll agree to the fight against Wood (26-2, 16 KOs), who fights on DAZN and is promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.
This likely means that Santa Cruz will vacate his WBA 126-lb title and face WBC champion Rey Vargas.
Unfortunately, there’s very little chance that the Santa Cruz vs. Wood fight will take place because of the network issues, as well as it not being one that would interest U.S boxing fans.
Wood isn’t a household name in the States, and it would be a fight where that hardcore boxing fans would be interested in seeing. Leigh isn’t a big star in his own country of England, so there’s nothing for Santa Cruz to gain by fighting him other than keeping his WBA 126-lb belt.
Santa Cruz can capture other titles, as he’s shown, and he’s not going to lose sleep by vacating his WBA belt.
“The @WBABoxing denied permission to @leosantacruz2 to unify with @reyvargasbox. He asks you to face @itsLeighWood and 24 hours to respond if he agrees to fight Wood or not,” said Salvador Rodriguez of ESPN on Twitter.
This move makes Eddie Hearn happy because Wood will move into the WBA ‘Super World’ slot without a fight, but it’s not a great way to pick up the more prestigious title.
Wood currently holds the WBA ‘regular’ 126-lb belt that he captured last year, beating Can Xu by a 12th-round knockout in July 2021.
In Wood’s first defense of his WBA secondary belt, he defeated Michael Conlan by a come-from-behind 12th-round knockout last March. Conlan was dominating Wood through most of the fight until tiring in the championship rounds and getting stopped.
If Wood can get his hands on the WBA ‘Super World’ title, he might be able to hold onto it for a while because the World Boxing Association has arguably lesser contenders ranked in the top seven spots.
The guy that Wood would need to worry about the most is two-time Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez, but he’s safely buried at the #8 spot in the WBA’s rankings.
Wood won’t have to worry about Robeisy for at least two or three years. That’ll give Wood time to defend his WBA title four to six times before facing Robeisy, and possibly losing his strap.
Rey Vargas is coming off an impressive 12-round split decision win over WBC 126-lb champion Mark Magsayo on July 9th. Vargas outboxed Magsayo, easily winning in a fight that was more one-sided than the scores turned in by the judges.
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