SAN DIEGO, October 13, 2017 – WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz won the respect of the boxing world when he won a narrow decision in 2015 over Abner Mares in a legitimate Fight of the Year nominee in front of a packed Los Angeles Forum full of screaming fans.
Santa Cruz went on to lose his title and then win it back from Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton. Mares had only one fight, a strong performance against Jesus Cuellar which put him right back on the featherweight map.
The ink was nearly dry on an agreement for the two to fight a rematch on September 9 in Los Angeles. But the date conflicted with another highly anticipated event, the “Superfly” card at the StubHub Center. Santa Cruz and Mares stepped aside. They return this Saturday at the StubHub Center, but not against each other. The event has an early 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 pm PT start on Fox Sports and Fox Deportes.
Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KOs) will instead defend his featherweight world title against former title challenger Chris Avalos (27-4, 20 KOs) of Lancaster, California, while four-time world champion Abner Mares (30-2-1, 15 KOs) defends his 126-pound championship against once-beaten Andres Gutierrez of Mexico (35-1-1, 25 KOs). Televised coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.
Assuming Santa Cruz and Mares win their respective matches, they have both agreed to terms to meet in a highly anticipated rematch for the WBA featherweight title in early 2018. Santa Cruz won a hard-fought, narrow decision against Mares in a 2015 Fight of the Year candidate that saw the two men go toe-to-toe for 12 fast-paced rounds and combine for over 2,000 punches thrown.
Mares admits at first, he was disappointed not getting another shot at Santa Cruz right away. “At first, I’m not going to lie, and most people know I felt upset. I felt a little irritated that I wasn’t getting that fight. Because at first it was solid, but at the same time, things happen for a reason, like Robert (Garcia, Mares’ trainer) said.
“But, it gives us that much time to get ready even more for the Leo Santa Cruz fight. But, again we’re not looking past Gutierrez, he’s a great fighter, he’s a hungry kid, I’m not that old and people make me sound old, but I’m not. I remember when I was that age, 26, and I got my opportunity for a world title. So I can imagine how happy he is … I’m no pushover, I’m in my prime.”
Guitierrez confirmed he’s happy, motivated, and eager for his title shot against Mares, promising plenty of action. “I’m going to have to come forward and fight strong for 12 rounds against Abner Mares. I have to use my power punches and attack the entire fight. The fans are going to love my style. I come forward and throw punches. Fans appreciate that and I want to give them a memorable performance.
“It’s going to be a war. I’m not giving an inch and at the end of the night, I will have both hands in the air and a belt around my waist.”
Mares agreed, both for his fight and for Leo Santa Cruz as well. “These guys have nothing to lose and everything to gain. These kind of fights make me better. I’m an entertainer, I like to put on a show. Come early.”
Santa Cruz, hovering just under the top ten on most pound for pound lists, is coming off a longer than expected layoff for his bout against Avalos, who scored an impressive TKO victory over Miguel Flores in July. He admits he was looking forward to a rematch with Mares since the fans loved the first fight, but his father and trainer Jose had other ideas.
“I think it was kind of my dad’s decision that he would prefer for me to go and get a fight before fighting Abner a second time,” said Santa Cruz. “So I said, “All right. If that’s what you want, well let’s go for it.” Santa Cruz said with many other big fights including the Mayweather vs. McGregor event, it would have been hard to focus on the rematch now, and isn’t overlooking this tune-up fight.
“I’ll never overlook under any opponent. Every opponent is dangerous to me and they say the underdog opponent are the most dangerous because they come hungry, they come for the opportunity,” said Santa Cruz.
“So I’ve been training hard, sparring, and I’ve been doing everything 100 percent, learning new things with my dad. I’m just ready to step in the ring and give a great performance for all the fans like I always try to do. I just go out there thinking about the fans and that’s what I’m hoping to do this time, because Avalos is a tough fighter, with big power, so I know we’re going to give a great fight because we’re both going to go out there and, you know, try to get the win, go toe-to-toe and make it a war.”
Avalos and Santa Cruz aren’t strangers; they’ve crossed paths plenty of time growing up in the Southern California boxing community. “I’ve had a lot of experience with Leo when we were growing up,” said Avalos. “We really know each other inside and out. It’s going to be a non-stop war. I know that he won’t let up and I’ll never give an inch … I feel really strong and fresh and ready for a 12-round battle on Saturday.
“I’m going to try to use my familiarity with Leo to my advantage. Obviously we’ve both grown up, but it definitely gives me some extra confidence,” added Avalos, who says this is a “do or die” moment in his career, and a must-win for him.
On paper, the card may not look like a must-see event. But there’s the magic ingredient in the recipe: it’s taking place in the fight factory at the StubHub Center, where crazy good things happen. Best not to overlook these matchups for that reason alone.
The televised card opens with undefeated junior welterweight contender Eddie Ramirez (17-0. 11 KOs) of Aurora, Illinois against former world champion Antonio DeMarco (32-6-1, 23 KOs) of Tijuana, Mexico in a ten round test.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a veteran boxing observer 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 +
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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