Leigh Wood is free to pursue any fight he wants as a recognized full titlist.

The year-long ordeal in waiting out the status of an ordered WBA featherweight title consolidation bout ended with Leo Santa Cruz relinquishing his ‘Super’ title. The decision was revealed Monday during the WBA Centennial Convention in Orlando, Florida, coming hours before a now-canceled purse bid that was scheduled to have determined promotional rights for the overdue fight.

WBA officials acknowledged receipt of a letter submitted by Santa Cruz’s team, confirming his plans to abandon his title reign. The notification was accompanied by a request to be ranked in the 130-pound junior lightweight division, where he has campaigned since 2019.

The development brings clarity to featherweight, one of seven divisions that still claimed two recognized WBA titleholders more than a year after the sanctioning body rolled out its title reduction campaign. Nottingham’s Wood (25-2, 14KOs) is upgraded to full WBA featherweight titleholder, having previously held the secondary ‘Regular’ title.

Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19KOs) previously held the WBA ‘Super’ featherweight title since January 2017, though he hasn’t fought at the weight since Fe. The long gap between title defenses prompted the WBA to get a commitment out of the four-division titlist, whose last three fights have taken place at junior lightweight. Santa Cruz assured the sanctioning body in writing last December of his intention to return to featherweight.

The commitment put him on the hook to face the winner of the WBA ‘World’ (Regular) title fight between defending secondary titlist Leigh Wood and then-unbeaten Michael Conlan this past March 12 in Wood’s hometown of Nottingham. Their epic clash saw Wood recover from an opening round knockdown and a scorecard deficit to emphatically knock Conlan out in the 12th and final round. The win marked the first defense of the secondary title he claimed in a 12th round knockout of Xu Can last July 31 in Brentwood, Essex, UK.

Santa Cruz was waiting in the wings, having outpointed Keenan Carbajal in a non-title fight on February 5 in Las Vegas. The fight was his first since an October 2020 knockout loss to Gervonta Davis to end his WBA junior lightweight title reign after just one fight.

The WBA ordered the fight on April 6, with the 30-day period ending without TGB Promotions (Santa Cruz) and Matchroom Boxing (Wood) reaching a deal or even coming close. The fight was destined for a purse bid, though the process was delayed by months due to Wood’s side protesting the purse split.

Matchroom argued on Wood’s behalf that the Brit was entitled to something closer to a 50-50 split as the more active fighter and emerging as the bigger draw since entering the title picture.

The request was denied. So, too—at the time—was a special permit request from TGB to instead stage a Santa Cruz-Vargas title unification. A purse bid hearing was ordered but canceled when TGB and Matchroom informed the WBA that a deal was reached, insisting that the fight would take place on a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) show on either November 5 or November 12.

That never came close to happening, as both sides sought to stage separate fights. The WBA granted what was claimed as a one-time exception, though neither fight materialized which put this bout—that clearly doesn’t interest either side—back on the table.

Wood was due to face Mexico’s Mauricio Lara on September 24, only for a biceps injury to cancel his planned hometown headliner in Nottingham, England.  It came as plans fell apart for Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19KOs) to unify his WBA ‘Super’ featherweight title against WBC titlist Rey Vargas, who has since pursued a shot at the WBC junior lightweight title.

A fresh round of talks was ordered once Wood was able to submit in writing proof of his injury along with a confirmed timetable of when he was fit to return to the ring. The latest negotiation period was dead on arrival, with the ordered fight summoned to a purse bid hearing and with the threat of one or both being stripped of their title for failure to proceed with the fight.

Santa Cruz brought long overdue resolution to the matter, though it is unclear when he will return to the ring.

Wood is due to headline a show in his Nottingham hometown either on January 28 or February 4. Matchroom Sport chairman Eddie Hearn previously told BoxingScene.com that Lara and former two-division titlist Kiko Martinez were the lead candidates to land the assignment, absent the ordered title consolidation fight moving forward which is officially no longer the case.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox