Leigh Wood’s time as the WBA featherweight champion could be a shot one after his victory over Mauricio Lara last Saturday night at the AO Arena in Manchester.
The World Boxing Association could order Wood to defend against his unbeaten mandatory Otabek Kholmatov (11-0, 10 KOs), and that’s a fight that could be even tougher for him than his match against the dangerous puncher Lara the first time around.
Wood (27-3, 16 KOs) wants to maximize the money he can make in his second reign as the WBA 126-lb champion, and the best way he can do that is by facing the popular fighter Josh Warrington at the City Grounds in Nottingham next.
That’s a big enough fight to fill the 30,000-seat City Grounds stadium and a winnable one for Wood. You can’t say the same if Wood is stuck fighting the 24-year-old hard-punching Uzbek Kholmatov in that location.
Kholmatov is not well known, he hits hard, and he’s not likely to be weight-drained as we saw with Lara. He’s not someone that the British Boxing Board of Control will be able to tell him he can’t come in below 128.5 lbs at the weigh-in. In layman’s terms, Kholmatov is all wrong for Wood and could mess up his plans for a Warrington money clash.
“I’ve worked very hard for that. I wouldn’t give it over for no one, but I’ve got people advising me. So we’ll have discussions and see what’s best,” said Leigh Wood at the post-fight press conference last Saturday night when asked what he’ll do if the WBA orders him to defend against his mandatory Otabek Kholmatov next.
“It comes down to where. I want to have that City Ground fight. If that’s without the belt, that would trump it. We’ll talk about it and make a decision,” said Wood.
From what Wood is saying, he’ll vacate the WBA title if he’s ordered to fight the dangerous puncher Otabek Kholmatov next. Boxing is a young man’s sport, and the soon-to-be 35-year-old Wood would be up against it defending against the 24-year-old Kholmatov because this is a guy that he would likely lose to even if he were the same age as him in his early 20s.
But for Wood to be in his mid-30s, taking on a dangerous puncher like Kholmatov, would be bad news for him. Kholmatov is like a volume-punching version of Lara, but one that won’t hold back as he did last Saturday.