Leigh Wood celebrates as confusion reigns over featherweight “title” status

Leigh Wood Featherweight

Ian Walton

In the twelfth and final round of his clash in Eddie Hearn’s mansion, Leigh Wood stopped Xu Can and got immediately celebrated as the new WBA featherweight champion.

Taking the “regular” belt, the secondary version of the strap, Wood may not get the recognition his promoters feel he deserves.

Leo Santa Cruz is the WBA “Super” featherweight champion on the official website of the “sanctioning body.”

With the vast majority of boxing fans, Wood will not get seen as a bonafide world title-holder.

In their official fight information, Matchroom Boxing stated that Wood had “claimed the WBA featherweight world title in a big upset at the top of the bill on the first week of Matchroom Fight Camp in Brentwood, Essex, live worldwide on DAZN.

“‘Leigh-thal’ created history by becoming only the second-ever boxer from Nottingham to become a World Champion – following in the footsteps of former IBF Super-Middleweight World Champion Carl Froch, who was watching on from ringside.”

Now, that statement would be true if the WBA had decided on the status of Santa Cruz, who lost his last outing to Gervonta Davis.

But at present, Santa Cruz is still named on the champions honor roll.

Leigh Wood featherweight Leo Santa Cruz

Clearly, his handlers are telling Wood he is the world champion. This whole scenario is another example of how the WBA’s decision to have two champions confuses everyone.

That’s one of the significant factors that saw World Boxing News refuse to continue to put the WBA in the same bracket as the other major sanctioning bodies.

Wood thinks he’s a world champion right now. This is a majorly sad situation for the fighter. A competitor who worked all his life to win a championship gets seen as the secondary to Santa Cruz.

The sooner the WBA gets rid of these secondary belts, which we all know are not world titles, the better for everyone involved.

After the best victory of his career, Wood was clearly over the moon and wrongly thought he’d realized his dream.

WOOD

“It feels good, you know, to get the stoppage over the line in a great and high-paced fight, the last round with six weeks’ notice, I couldn’t have done any more,” Wood told Matchroom.

“I did say in an interview that I’m going to be catching him clean, and it’s not down to me how long the fight lasts. It’s down to him, pretty much. I could have sustained that all night.

“He took some big shots, big heart, credit to him, but the accumulation has its effect as well.

“The shot I finished him with wasn’t as big as the ones I caught him with earlier on, but they took their toll. I caught him and got the stoppage.

Leigh Wood Featherweight
Ian Walton

FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION

“I had belief in my power. Not only do I have big power, but I know how to get it off, how to set it up, and how to mix it up. That’s the biggest factor in working with Ben, Lee Wylie, and Barry Smith. They’ve changed the game for me.

“He wasn’t throwing 120 punches in any round. That’s down to the game plan. Everyone was saying, how are you going to do it? What are you going to do? Are you going to hit him hard? Are you going to hold him?

“It was down to the game plan. Even people watching don’t understand, but that’s a conversation for another day.

“Hopefully, the younger generations see this and think, you know what, he’s done it. He’s world champion, British, Commonwealth, European. Hopefully, people decide to go pick up a pair of boxing gloves and start their journey.

“My career was stalled earlier on. I’ve been British, Commonwealth, WBO European, and now a world champion in three years. My best years are definitely to come,” he added.

The WBA has put Wood in a horrible situation when the belt he holds means nothing in the grand scheme of world champions.

Event organizers should be honest from the start with their events instead of promoting secondary straps. The buck stops with them, and they should be the ones to curb this terrible trend of secondary belts.

The views expressed in this article are opinions of Phil Jay.

Phil Jay is the Editor of WBN. An Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America since 2018. And a member of the Sports Journalists’ Association. Follow on Twitter @PhilJWBN.