Otabek Khlomatov wasn’t exactly mentioned by name.
Any reference of the unbeaten featherweight surrounding last weekend’s Leigh Wood-Mauricio Lara rematch was limited to “mandatory defense to be ordered.” Permission was granted by the WBA for Wood and Lara to once again meet, with the understanding that the winner would have to next defend versus Uzkbekistan’s Khlomatov as the number-one ranked featherweight contender.
After the win, Wood mentioned the possibility of a stadium fight at City Ground in his Nottingham hometown. He acknowledged the reference to a mandatory title defense but only specifically mentioned desired showdowns with countryman Josh Warrington (31-2-1, 7KOs) and reigning IBF featherweight titlist Luis Alberto Lopez (28-2, 16KOs)
“I don’t care that (Wood) didn’t mention my name,” Khlomatov told BoxingScene.com. “It only matters that he knows he now has to fight me.
“I'm very pleased that I'm finally in the position and lined up to fight for the Championship of the world. It didn't matter to me who was gonna win.”
Wood (27-3, 16KOs) won via lopsided unanimous decision this past Saturday at AO Arena in Manchester. The win allowed the 34-year-old to reclaim the WBA featherweight title he lost to Mexico City’s Lara (26-3-1, 19KOs) just three months ago via one-punch, seventh-round knockout just three months ago in his Nottingham hometown.
Lara’s come-from-behind knockout win to unseat Wood took place two weeks prior to Khlomatov’s one-sided, fifth-round knockout of Thomas Ward on March 4 in Newcastle, England. Khlomatov (11-0, 10KOs) floored the unbeaten Ward (33-1-1, 5KOs) three times before he forced the Brit’s corner to literally throw in the towel at 2:58 into the fifth round of their final title eliminator.
“I proved already that I could go to my opponent's hometown and still knock him out,” noted Khlomatov. “I'm young and this is just the beginning of my journey.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox