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Eddie Hearn Hints Leigh Wood Could Vacate WBA Title, Not Fight Mandatory Otabek Kholmatov


By Dan Ambrose: Eddie Hearn says he’s trying to speak with the management for Leigh Wood’s mandatory Otabek Kholmatov to begin talking in what could be the beginning stages for negotiations for a step-aside deal.

Hearn is adamant that the newly crowned WBA featherweight champion Wood (27-3, 16 KOs) will fight Josh Warrington in September at the City Ground in Nottingham, England.

That means that Hearn is going to try and reach a deal with the 24-year-old Kholmatov to step aside. Hearn said that if Wood vacates the WBA title, #2 Ramond Ford, one of Matchroom’s fighters, would fight Kholmatov for the vacant belt.

It wouldn’t be a bad thing for Kholmatov to step aside as long as the deal is fair, and he’s guaranteed to fight the winner of the Wood vs. Warrington fight. What would be bad is for the winner of that fight to vacate the WBA title, leaving Kholmatov to fight Ford.

Going by what Hearn is saying, he’s going to use Raymond Ford’s name as a way of getting Kholmatov’s management to agree to step aside. That is to say, if Kholmatov’s team doesn’t agree to Hearn’s step-aside offer, he’ll mention that he would need to fight Raymond Ford for the vacant WBA belt.

Ford is a good fighter, but he’s not unbeatable. He fought to an eight round draw against Aaron Perez in 2021.

Hearn says he’s so confident that Ford would beat Kholmatov that he would bet his house. Of course, Hearn doesn’t know much about Kholmatov, so there’s a chance Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs) will suffer his first career loss. Oh well.

The important thing is that Leigh Wood avoids fighting Kholmatov because that’s a fight that he’d likely lose, and that would wreck the big City Grounds match-up in September against Warrington.

“It’s a tough fight. [Otabek] Kholmatov is a good dangerous fight. He’s unproven in many ways, but he’s a talent. Everyone knows he’s a talent,” said Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn to Boxing Social about the WBA ordering Leigh Wood to defend his featherweight title against his mandatory Otabek Kholmatov next.

“I’m not saying it’s a nothing fight, but no one has ever heard of Kholmatov. We can’t use that as an excuse because that’s what you do when you don’t want to fight someone. Filip Hrgovic [for example], ‘No one has ever heard of him.’

“Shut up; he’s mandatory, so we have to deal with him. If we have to fight him, we have to fight him,” Hearn said about the unbeaten Kholmatov.

“We’ve had various communications with people claiming to represent Kholmatov, which is a mess. So we’ll have to see what happens there. Is there a deal to be done where ]Kholmatov will step aside].

“Look, we want to make Wood-Warrington, and we want to make it at the City Ground. So if there’s a deal to be done. There’s another young gentleman, who I don’t mention enough, and that’s young Raymond Ford, who is #2 with the WBA.

“So, if that belt becomes vacant, it’s Kholmatov against Raymond Ford. Let me tell you right now. I’ll put my house on Raymond Ford beating Kholmatov. Styles make fights.

“That kid is a special fighter. So let’s see what happens, but my ambition is to make Wood-Warrington at the City Grounds in September. Yes, but always for a belt if you can,” said Hern when asked if the Wood vs. Warrington fight will take place with or without Leigh’s WBA featherweight title.

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