SAN DIEGO, February 27, 2016 – Undefeated featherweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs) of Los Angeles kicks off his 2016 schedule close to home in Anaheim, California. It’s a warm-up against former champion Kiko Martinez (35-6, 26 KOs) of Spain.
Santa Cruz is coming off a career building victory over Abner Mares last August, one of 2015’s best fights in front of an enthusiastic crowd of local fans at the Staples Center. The unanimous decision put to rest much of the criticism that Santa Cruz was largely untested despite his record and two division titles. Now that he’s quieted the doubters, his follow-up fight is a bit disappointing. No disrespect to Martinez, but the veteran has suffered losses to both Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg, who fight earlier in the day in Manchester, England. He isn’t expected to post much of a threat to Santa Cruz.
There is a bit of intrigue behind the scenes worth watching. Santa Cruz’s former trainer Robert Garcia from up the freeway in Oxnard, California will be in Martinez’s corner working with him for this fight. It is only the second fight in the United States for Martinez. He desperately wants to redeem himself before he calls it a career, and this is his chance to do it on a big stage. Sometimes it’s enough to boost a boxer past his skills on paper.
Leo’s trainer is his father, Jose. Jose pointed out a trainer can’t do the work in the ring, and while he respects Garcia he doesn’t expect it to make a difference.
Assuming Santa Cruz wins, his next bout needs to be against a top tier fighter. Assuming also he chooses to remain in the featherweight division, let’s see him step up against someone like Gary Russell Jr. Russell has a bout with Jhonny Gonzalez on March 28. If the flashy technician Russell wins over the banger Gonzalez, it’s a fight that can and should be made.
The co-main event is the matchup serious fans are excited about. Mexican super bantamweights Hugo Ruiz (35-3, 31 KOs) and Julio Ceja (30-1, 27 KOs) fight for the WBC Super Bantamweight Championship in a rematch of their bout on the Santa Cruz vs. Mares undercard. It was the U.S. debut for both and they didn’t disappoint in a roller coaster of a fight. Ruiz knocked Ceja down with a left hook, but Ceja survived the count and the round. Ceja returned the favor in the fifth with a left of his own. Ruiz also survived the count, but Ceja was able to close the deal and referee stopped the fight at 2:43 of the fifth round.
Both Ruiz and Ceja promise their second fight will be as exciting as the first one. “Just because I beat him doesn’t make this fight easier,” said Ceja. “He’s smart, experienced, and he won’t make the same mistakes again. You don’t want to miss it. War is coming.”
Ruiz knows he let the first one get away from him. He says he plans to put more pressure on Ceja this time around while shoring up his defense. “I’m going to be more aggressive. I’m going to look for the fight. I’m the challenger, and I’m coming for the title.” Ruiz says he doesn’t expect Ceja to fight the same way as in the first fight, but he’ll be prepared for whatever comes at him.
Whoever wins can go to Disneyland, since it’s just a few miles to the west. You can practically see Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and the Matterhorn from ringside.
Premier Boxing presents Santa Cruz vs. Martinez and Ceja vs. Ruiz II on Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT/
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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