Mexican stars Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KOs) and Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KOs) are set to meet on Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN at 12pm on Sunday Cambodian time at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, in a clash shaping up to be a potential fight of the year candidate.
The two Mexican-born, Southern California-based fighters have won world titles in multiple divisions: Mares has been champion in three divisions at bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight; Santa Cruz at bantamweight and super bantamweight.
The buildup to the fight has been feverish and is yet more proof that Al Haymon’s vision for boxing – putting top quality contests together and available on normal cable TV for viewers – is starting to win over the sceptics.
“I’m really excited for this fight,” Mares said, “It’s a fight the fans have been asking for, and I’m ready to give them what they want: a great show and a great victory.”
Mares 29, lost his featherweight world title to Jhonny Gonzalez in an upset in August 2013 and has since come in for criticism for the last three opponents he has faced, classing them as journeymen.
However, a look back on his career shows he has fought the best of the best for many years, having won titles in three divisions when he was on a rampage through all-comers during a 21-month reign of terror between 2011 and 2013.
During that period he defeated top fighters such as Joseph Agbeko, who at the time was (28-2), to win his bantamweight title, before dispatching him again in a rematch, before going on to beat Eric Morel, who had an outstanding record at the time of the fight (45-2), to win the junior featherweight world title; the long-reigning bantamweight champion Anselmo Moreno, whose record stood at 33-2-1; and then Daniel Ponce de Leon who boasted a 44-4 record when they fought.
Mares is also very comfortable at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where his big wins over Moreno and Ponce de Leon came, with the Moreno fight being on the undercard when Santa Cruz defended his bantamweight title against Victor Zaleta (20-4-1 2 KO’s) Santa Cruz, the reigning junior featherweight champion, fought his last bout at featherweight to prepare himself for life in the division, anticipating the showdown with Mares.
He easily defeated Jose Cayetano, although he was a replacement opponent, via 10-round unanimous decision on May 2 on the Mayweather- Pacquiao undercard.
“This fight means so much to me because I know it is what the fans have been waiting for,” Santa Cruz said.
“The opportunity to fight at Staples Center against a Mexican warrior and great fighter in Abner Mares is one that I plan on taking very seriously.”
Santa Cruz, 26, will likely vacate his junior featherweight title. Many fight fans will be disappointed he is leaving the junior featherweight division – one boasting belt-holders all with unbeaten records – without fighting Cuban sensation and WBA and WBO champion Guillermo Rigondeaux (15-0 10, KOs), Britain’s WBA champion Scott Quigg (31-0-2, 23 KOs) or Northern Ireland’s IBF Champion Carl Frampton (21-0, 14 KOs) in what would have been big unification showdowns.
However he has assured his fans that Mares has been on his mind and in his sights for some time.
“We have been preparing for this moment for a very long time, and I’m so glad it’s finally here,” Santa Cruz said. “A win is going to take one of us to the next level.”
Now the two men will be on the same card in the same arena again but this time head to head in one of the most exciting fights in this division for a long time, with many believing it a truly 50-50 fight.
With a lot of Mexican and Southern Californian pride on the line for both, many experts are expecting all-out war.
With Premier Boxing Champions’ business model for the sport starting to gain momentum and a current crop of fighters in many divisions being the best the sport has produced in a generation, boxing is truly making a global comeback – something that will no doubt be proved this weekend in what promises to be yet another all-Mexican classic.
The Mares-Santa Cruz fight can be seen at Paddy Rice. #213 Sisowath Quay at 12pm on Sunday