One of the longest current title reigns in the sport is on the verge of ending outside the ring.
Leo Santa Cruz has been instructed by the World Boxing Association (WBA) to offer a firm update on his future plans regarding the WBA “Super” featherweight title he has held since regaining the belt in January 2017. The near five year title reign is notable only in length, as the four-division has made just three defenses during his second reign and none since February 2019.
Whatever his plans are for his next ring adventure, they will have to be decided soon—at least if he wants to retain his current title status.
“It is of utmost importance for us to know your future plans, because it has been more than two-and-a-half years since your last title defense,” Carlos Chavez, chairman of the WBA Championship Committee informed Santa Cruz via official letter, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com. “In light of [this], we would like to have your decision by Monday, December 13, 2021.
“We wish you all the success you deserve in the future and also thank you for your respect and loyalty to the World Boxing Association.”
Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19KOs) has enjoyed title reigns at bantamweight, junior featherweight, featherweight and junior lightweight over the course of his 15-year career. The 33-year-old Mexican—now based out of Southern California—is 16-2 (7KOs) in major title fights, though having not posted a win on that level since a twelve-round decision over Miguel Flores to claim the WBA “Super” junior lightweight title in November 2019 in becoming a four-division titlist.
The latter reign only lasted through his first—and only—fight since the pandemic, suffering a sixth-round knockout at the potent hands of Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis (26-0, 24KOs) last Halloween at Alamodome in San Antonio.
Santa Cruz has not fought at featherweight since February 16, 2019, when he scored a twelve-round decision win over Rafael Rivera who as a late substitute for an injured Flores. The win ran his record to 6-1 in featherweight title fights spanning two reigns beginning with a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over Abner Mares in their memorable August 2015 clash.
One successful defense came of his reign before suffering a twelve-round points loss to Carl Frampton in their unforgettable July 2016 slugfest at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The loss was Santa Cruz’s first as a pro, though returning the favor in bumping off the unbeaten Frampton in their January 2017 rematch.
Santa Cruz has fought just five times since then, with his last two bouts taking place at the junior lightweight limit.
In the event his next bout does not come at featherweight and within the prescribed time frame, Santa Cruz will have to relinquish the title which will in turn go to current WBA “World” featherweight titlist Leigh Wood. The upgrade would come as the streaking Brit awaits a fight date with mandatory challenger Michael Conlan.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox