Leigh Wood will continue with his preset vision for the rest of his already thrilling career.
That journey will no longer include the WBA featherweight title. BoxingScene.com has confirmed that Nottingham’s Wood formally vacated the title he regained earlier this year as he will plan to campaign in the 130-pound division.
“We are writing to formally confirm that Leigh Wood… has decided to vacate his title with immediate effect,” Matchroom Boxing’s Tom Dallas informed the WBA on Tuesday in an official notice obtained by Boxing Scene. “Leigh has had a remarkable journey as the WBA featherweight champion, and we appreciate the opportunities he has been afforded during this time.”
The development comes just ten days after Wood’s come-from-behind, seventh-round knockout of countryman and former two-time IBF featherweight titlist Josh Warrington. Wood trailed on all three scorecards through six rounds but dropped Warrington just before the bell, after which point referee Michael Alexander deemed him unfit to continue in their October 7 DAZN main event from AO Arena in Manchester.
It marked the first successful defense of Wood’s second title reign, though his stay was already on borrowed time. Otabek Kholmatov was already deemed as the mandatory challenger in waiting for the title. Wood, Warrington and Matchroom all had to seek special permission from the WBA to move forward with their higher profile fight, with the agreement that the winner would have to next a mandatory title defense.
It also came with the unspoken understanding that the winner was very likely going to vacate the title.
Wood (28-3, 17KOs) was upgraded to full titleholder last December once it was confirmed that Leo Santa Cruz was no longer interested in moving forward with an ordered title consolidation bout. The first defense as an upgraded champ ended in disaster, when Wood was stopped in the seventh-round of a voluntary title defense versus Mexico’s Mauricio Lara on February 18 in his Nottingham hometown.
Their rematch barely three months later saw Wood dominate en route to a landslide unanimous decision, in a May 27 fight where Lara already lost the belt at the scales. A fight-week weight pre-check revealed he was unfit to cut down to the featherweight limit, and Wood took care of the rest in the ring.
After the win, Wood was open about his future plans—a big fight at City Ground and possibly a run at a 130-pound title. Both of those options were reiterated after his knockout win over Warrington, as Wood called for a future showdown versus unbeaten two-time and reigning IBF junior lightweight titlist Joe Cordina.
His honorable standing with the WBA could also lead to a push up the 130-pound queue should he choose to travel that route in the year ahead.
“Leigh is determined to become a two-weight world champion and he has set his sights on the Super Featherweight division,” noted Dallas. With that in mind, we kindly request for Leigh to be highly raked in the WBA super featherweight rankings, once updated.”
The next expected move at featherweight is for the WBA to order a vacant title fight between Uzbekistan’s Otabek Kholmatov and Matchroom-promoted Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7KOs), a 24-year-old southpaw from Camden, New Jersey.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the WBA approved a request placed on behalf of featherweight titlist Leigh Wood to proceed with an optional defense versus former two-time IBF titlist Josh Warrington. The bout was always targeted to take place in October, but its exact status was up in the air prior to the sanctioning body’s official decision.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox