Two boxers who won separate versions of the same title just six days apart are now on a collision course.
Representatives for Leigh Wood and Michael Conlan have been ordered by the World Boxing Association (WBA) to enter negotiations for a mandatory featherweight title fight. Both parties were contacted Friday by the sanctioning body who have ordered a 30-day window for terms to be reached before ordering a purse bid hearing.
“Please consider this communication as mandatory negotiations notification for WBA Featherweight division,” Carlos Chavez, chairman of the WBA Championship Committee noted to Wood through promoter Eddie Hearn via official letter, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com. “Please take notice, that pursuant to championship rule C.12 you must defend the title against the next leading available contender within one hundred twenty (120) days from the date you became the champion.”
Wood (25-2, 15KOs) obtained the WBA “World” title following a stunning twelfth-round stoppage of Xu Can on July 31 in Brentwood, Essex, England. The win came six days prior to Conlan (16-0, 8KOs) outpointing TJ Doheny to win the WBA “interim” featherweight belt via unanimous decision in their August 6 clash at Falls Park in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Conlan was since inserted as the mandatory challenger, following the WBA’s decision to eliminate all interim titles earlier this week as previously reported by BoxingScene.com.
The ordered fight by the WBA ruins any previously discussed plans for a potential rematch between Wood and Xu, as reigning titlists assigned to a mandatory title fight can neither accept nor pursue a voluntary title fight during that period.
“Based on the above mentioned we order a period of thirty (30) days negotiations beginning August 28, 2021, and will close at the end of the business day (- 5 GMT) on September 27, 2021,” Chavez noted in the letter, on which Jamie Conlan—head of Conlan Boxing and vice president of MTK Global—was also copied. “In the event an agreement is not reached, or if any of the parties expresses unwillingness to negotiate the Championship Committee may call a purse bid.”
Should the fight head to a purse bid hearing, the winning amount will be split 55/45 in favor of Wood as the reigning secondary titlist.
An even bigger prize comes for the winner, who will then become the mandatory challenger to long-reigning WBA “Super” champion Leo Santa Cruz. The move will likely come with criticism, as Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19KOs) has not fought at the weight since a February 2019 win over late substitute Rafael Rivera. The four-division titlist has spent his last two fights at junior lightweight, most recently in a sixth-round knockout loss to Gervonta Davis last Halloween.
The ordered fight between Wood and Conlan comes in the midst of a continued process by the WBA to reduce its number of recognized titlists. Similar bouts have been ordered at strawweight, junior flyweight, junior lightweight and cruiserweight in the past few weeks.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox