On Saturday, August 29, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, undefeated two-division champion Leo “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KOs), from Rosemead, California, by way of Huetamo, Michoacán de Ocampo, Mexico, fights three-division champion Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KOs), from Montebello, California, by way of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, for the WBA Featherweight Super Championship.
The fight will be presented by Premier Boxing Champions and televised live on ESPN starting at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT.
Twenty-seven-year-old Santa Cruz turned pro in 2006 at the age of 18. A dynamic come-forward fighter who is one of the best body punches in the business, Santa Cruz, aside from a draw in his second fight, is putting his perfect record on the line.
“El Terremoto” has been handled beautifully. After a few years getting experience by fighting novices and grizzled veterans, in 2011 he stepped it up and won the interim WBC Youth World bantamweight title. In June 2012 he defeated Vusi Malinga (20-3-1 coming in) to win the IBF World bantamweight title. Fourteen months later, he KO’d Victor Terrazas (37-2-1) to win the WBC World super bantamweight title.
Since that turnaround in 2012, the combined records of Santa Cruz’s opponents are an eye-popping 316-32-13.
But he has yet to fight anyone as accomplished as Abner Mares.
Mares is 29 years old and turned pro in 2005 at the age of 19. He has followed a similar path as Santa Cruz. In December 2010 he defeated Vic Darchinyan (35-2-1 at the time) to win the IBO World bantamweight title. In his next fight, eight months later, he won a majority decision over Joseph Agbeko (28-2) to win the IBF World bantamweight title.
In addition to defeating Darchinyan and Agbeko, Mares also has victories over Eric Morel, Anselmo Moreno, and Daniel Ponce de Leon.
Mares is a warrior through and through and leaves nothing outside the ring.
But it all seemed to come crashing down in August 2013 when he was knocked out in the first round by Jhonny Gonzalez.
The experts said Gonzalez, the longtime WBC World featherweight champion, was nearing the end of his career. With the exception of a loss to Ponce De Leon, he hadn’t lost a fight in three years, so he wasn’t losing fights, per se. But boxing is rarely kind to aging boxers, especially aging featherweight boxers, which made his knockout of Mares all the more alarming, and that alarm colors Saturday’s fight against Leo Santa Cruz.
“In my mind this is a fight of the year,” says Santa Cruz, “because we’re both Mexican street fighters, we come forward, trying to please the fans. I see this fight like almost a 50/50. We both have a lot to prove. Neither of us wants to lose. We’re going to leave everything in the ring. I know he’s really hungry to get the victory. I don’t want my first defeat so I’m going to go out there and put a show on. I have to pressure him and stay on top of him.
“I’m very determined to win this fight. It’s the biggest fight of my career. This is the toughest fighter I’ve faced. I have a lot to lose. A win against Mares will put me on the level to get more big fights. We know the way to victory.”
The way to victory for Abner Mares is through Santa Cruz.
“I’m going up against a young, undefeated, talented and strong Leo Santa Cruz,” says Mares. “He’s never tasted defeat. All of that motivates me to go in there and be the first one to take him down. I’m past my loss. My experience is going to be the difference in this fight. Anything is possible. He has a lot of talents but I’m going to take what comes my way and put in a great performance. I am in there to destroy. I know what I have to do.”
This article was penned by the author who is not related to the WBA and the statements, expressions or opinions referenced herein are that of the author alone and not the WBA.