Some claim that boxing is the sport that has brought the most glory to the Mexican people, and Leo Santa Cruz is one of the many examples of that legacy.
He is the reigning 130-pound WBA super champion and four-time champion in four divisions, with a record of 37 wins, 19 knockouts and one loss. He has always mentioned Mexico as his first country, proud of his parents’ roots.
Making a career in boxing is not easy, and his record in the sport speaks for itself. It was his father who introduced him to the sport at the age of eight. He entered the ring with little experience but dared to sacrifice his childhood pleasures for long days of training at the gym.
He comes from humble origins. His father, José María Santacruz, with no experience, decided to train him with the conviction that one day his son would achieve something.
Necessity forced him to walk to the training sessions many times, as he had no money for a bus. Full of hope, he left his native Michoacán, Mexico, for the United States, where he made his professional debut on October 13, 2006, when he beat Pedro Silva by knockout in two rounds.
But long before his debut, he proved he had the potential to achieve great things in the professional field, as in the amateur field he won Gold at the International Junior Olympic Tournament 2004-2005, was Champion in the Pan American Cadet Games 2005 and Silver at the national amateur championship in 2006. Overall, he accumulated a record of 148-7.
After his debut, he began to harvest many triumphs. In 2011 he beat Stephane Jamoye to win the WBC Junior Bantamweight World Championship.
He won his first world championship at the age of 24, when he defeated Vusi Malinga by unanimous decision on June 2nd, 2012. In that same year he made three successful defenses, showing his class over Eric Morel, Victor Zaleta and Alberto Guevara.
That eight-year-old boy managed, in August 2013, to earn his second division title after winning the WBC World Super Bantamweight Championship in three episodes versus Victor “The Viking” Terrazas. In less than a calendar year, Huetamo’s pride achieved something that any fighter could only dream of.
He made five title defenses between 2013 and 2015. Then came that first big fight against Abner Mares, in a new division that posed new challenges: the 126 pounds. That fight, full of emotions and cheers of exalted Mexicans in the Staples Center of Los Angeles, was for ‘El Terremoto’ by majority decision, and he consolidated his name in the books of boxing history: World Champion in three different categories.
hat night, he was also crowned with his first WBA World Championship, which he successfully defended against Kiko Martinez, but then lost, along with his undefeated record, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to Ireland’s Carl Frampton in a 2016 that was very difficult for him not only because of that defeat, but also for a family problem.
In 2016, Mr. José María, the champion’s father and trainer, began a fierce battle against a spinal myeloma cancer that kept him confined to a wheelchair. However, that did not stop him from staying in his son’s corner during his camps.
On several occasions, ‘el Terremoto’ has ensured that his father’s health is his main strength when it comes to boxing. And he has proved it.
His return to the ring was for a direct rematch against Frampton, who saw his undefeated 23 victories fall before a devastating Terremoto, in a fight held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where the judges saw the Mexican win: 114-114; 113-115 and 113-115.
From that night in 2017, he has stepped into the ring three times: He knocked out Chris Avalos, defeated Abner Mares by points in a rematch that confirmed, to the eyes of many, Santa Cruz as the best in the world in the division. He did the same in 2019 against Rafael Rivera and, in November of that same year, he carved his name in gold letters in the list of four-division champions, after defeating Miguel Flores in a fight that had at stake the Super Featherweight Championship of the WBA, the oldest boxing organization.