Leigh Wood won’t have time for a victory lap after last Saturday’s dissection of Mauricio Lara, as the WBA has officially ordered him to defend his title against mandatory challenger Otabek Kholmatov.
While Wood’s (27-3, 16 KO) triumphant March 2022 knockout of Michael Conlan was a mandatory challenge, both of his battles with Lara were voluntary defenses, so this is actually a rare case of the WBA properly enforcing its deadlines.
Kholmatov (11-0, 10 KO) doesn’t have the profile of some of his fellow Uzbek standouts, but he’s a terror in his own right. The 24-year-old beat the absolute tar out of Thomas Patrick Ward in a final eliminator this past March, showing off a level of sheer violence that made him an immediate player at 126.
That said, I’d be surprised if he got his shot right away. Wood and IBF champion Luis Alberto Lopez have shown mutual interest in unifying their titles, and since Wood insists he’s only got two more fights before retirement, it could be a hot minute before Kholmatov fights for gold.