GLENDALE, Arizona – Leigh Wood is set to return to the ring—with or without Leo Santa Cruz.

The latter could also determine whether the Brit moves forward with or without his secondary WBA featherweight title.

Matchroom Boxing chairman Eddie Hearn confirmed to that Wood will next fight on January 28, likely at Motorpoint Arena in his hometown of Nottingham, England. The only fight that can be pursued for now without having to vacate is a title consolidation clash with WBA ‘Super’ featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz.

The pairing is currently the subject of a Dec. 12 purse bid hearing during the WBA Centennial convention in Orlando, Florida. Santa Cruz is due the larger share of a 75/25 purse split.

“Because of the split, it makes the fight hard to make. Personally, I don’t think Leo Santa Cruz will fight at featherweight again,” Hearn told “But we can’t do anything else unless he vacates his belt. So, we are talking to PBC and Luis DeCubas We want Leigh Wood to fight January 28. Whether it’s Leo Santa Cruz or anyone else, we need to get him back in the ring.”

WBA president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza previously confirmed to that neither side is any longer permitted to file for an exception. The WBA is prepared to strip whatever party refuses to move forward with the fight, even if it means forcing both to relinquish their belts and ordering two new contenders to fight for the vacant title.

To Hearn’s point, Santa Cruz has not fought at featherweight since February 2019. The WBA has allowed him to retain his title status despite his past three fights taking place in the 130-pound division, including his most recent outing in February in a ten-round win over fringe contender Keenan Carbajal.

The matchup that clearly greater arouses the interest of Wood (26-2, 16KOs) and Matchroom is a pairing with IBF featherweight titlist Josh Warrington (31-1-1, 8KOs), who makes the first defense of his second title reign versus Mexicali’s Luis Alberto Lopez (26-2, 15KOs) this Saturday on DAZN from First Direct Arena in his Leeds hometown.

Wood (26-2, 16KOs) should have greater clarity a few days after Warrington-Lopez as to the opponent and the stakes for his own next fight. The 34-year-old Brit has not fought since his thrilling 12th round knockout of unbeaten Michael Conlan in their Fight of the Year entry on March 12 at Motorpoint Arena. Wood was floored in the opening round and trailed on all three cards before rallying to drop Conlan late in round eleven and out cold with 1:25 left to go in the fight.

A lengthy delay has since followed, which has included a biceps injury which forced the cancellation of a title defense versus Mauricio Lara. Along the way have come several postponements in a Santa Cruz-Wood fight that has been ordered at least three times since April and now to the point where at least one side will have to give up a title absent a straightaway fight.  

“He really, really wants to fight Josh Warrington and with the WBA and IBF titles at stake. Obviously, Josh Warrington has to beat Luis Alberto Lopez (on Saturday). But after that, Leigh fights in January and then wants to fight Josh Warrington next summer.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox