News broke earlier this month that WBA “super” featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz and “world” champion Leigh Wood had come to terms for their ordered title consolidation, but it turns out there was more going on behind the scenes. The WBA announced early this afternoon that they’d approved a plan that would see Santa Cruz face WBC champ Rey Vargas in a unification match and Leigh Wood defend his belt against Mauricio Lara, with the winners squaring off within 120 days of said unification.
DAZN then revealed that Wood vs Lara will headline a September 24th show at Motorpoint Arena alongside Hannah Rankin vs Terri Harper and Maxi Hughes vs Kid Galahad.
All the props in the world to Wood (26-2, 16 KO); he could have made an easy voluntary defense to protect the Santa Cruz fight, but he instead chose one of the division’s boogeymen in Lara (24-2-1, 17 KO), who isn’t even ranked by the WBA as of three weeks ago. There’s zero chance this doesn’t produce an X of the Year candidate, whether that’s Fight or Knockout.
“I maybe have a handful of fights left and I want them to be my biggest,” said Wood. “I want to be tested. I’m filling arenas now and I want to keep that momentum going. Every fight should be a step forward, not backwards. Mauricio Lara is dangerous but high risk high reward, I’m confident I can do what Josh Warrington couldn’t do and get the job done.”
“I’m very excited,” said Lara. “This is the opportunity that I have worked so hard for and I am not going to miss it. I am aware that Leigh Wood is a great fighter, but no one is going to take away the possibility of me becoming a World Champion. I’m going to England for the third time and it’s like I’m fighting at home.”
Harper (12-1-1, 6 KO) moved from 130 to 135 after her shock knockout loss to Alycia Baumgardner, and show now jumps another 19 pounds to face WBA super welterweight champion Rankin (12-5, 3 KO). My guess is that this is an effort to set up a rematch with Natasha Jonas, whom Harper drew with in a 2020 barnburner and who is set for a unification with Patrice Bergholt in just over a week.
Rankin reportedly declined the Jonas fight, so having Harper take the belt would make unification easier to put together.
DAZN’s tweet says there are “three world title fights,” but only the IBO lightweight belt is at stake when Hughes (25-5-2, 5 KO) faces Galahad (28-2, 17 KO). While Galahad announced a move up to 130 after getting stunned by Kiko Martinez last year, nothing seemed to come of it, and he’ll be going to 135 for this one. Hughes has been red-hot since upsetting Carroll in 2020, including a near-shutout of Jovanni Straffon last year, so Galahad will have a lot to prove.