Leo Santa Cruz, left, and Abner Mares engage in the traditional staredown following their news conference Tuesday at Plaza Mexico in Lynwood/Photo by Craig Bennett, TGB Promotions
LYNWOOD – Fights between L.A.-area boxers have always commanded a lot of attention, especially when they are contested in Los Angeles. Abner Mares of Hawaiian Gardens and Leo Santa Cruz of Lincoln Heights will be hard-pressed to live up to Danny “Little Red” Lopez-Bobby “Schoolboy” Chacon in 1974 at the Sports Arena and Albert “Tweety” Davila-Frankie Duarte in 1977 at the Olympic Auditorium.
But they figure to give it a heck of a try.
Mares and Santa Cruz on Tuesday at Plaza Mexico played host to a news conference to formally announce their Aug. 29 featherweight fight at Staples Center (on
Mares has won titles in the bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight divisions. Santa Cruz has won championships in the bantamweight and super
There will be no major belt on the line in this one. With their credentials, it doesn’t matter.
“This is the biggest fight of my career – I think the biggest and the hardest,” said the 26-year-old Santa Cruz, who attended Lincoln High. “And to fight here at Staples Center in my hometown is a big privilege and an honor for me.
“So I have to leave everything on the line. I have to be 100 percent prepared. He has a lot of fans here, too, in Southern California. I think (it will be) like 50-50, so this fight is going to show who is the king of L.A.”
The aforementioned fights from yesteryear were mentioned to Mares. He then made a bold statement about this fight.
“It’s up there, man, it’s up there,” said Mares, 29; he attended Artesia High. “I’m not just saying it. I think we’re going to prove it come Aug. 29. Leo Santa Cruz is not known for being a guy that holds, he’s not known for his boxing skills, he’s just known for a fighter that comes forward and throws a volume of punches, and vice versa.
“I’m known as a warrior, I’m known as a guy that’s been in many fights, many wars. So I think when you two put fighters like that with those styles, it just turns out to be one of the best fights in decades. I think it’s going to turn out to be one of those (Arturo) Gatti-(Micky) Ward-type fights.”
The two sparred together some years ago, but neither would say he got the better of the other. There were some comments that seemed to stir a pot that could be
boiling by Aug. 29.
Mares is 29-1-1 with 15 knockouts. After making the only defense of his super bantamweight belt with a victory over Anselmo Moreno, Mares moved up in weight and took the featherweight title from Daniel Ponce De Leon on May 2013 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
But Mares was knocked out in the first round by Jhonny Gonzalez at StubHub Center that August. Mares has since won three consecutive fights, though he has not been overly impressive. Santa Cruz believes Mares is not the same fighter he was before the Gonzalez fight.
“I have seen his last three fights and, no, he hasn’t been the same guy as before,” Santa Cruz said. “But he knows this is a really important fight and he
knows that he has a lot to lose in this fight, so I know he’s going to come prepared.”
Of the left hook Gonzalez landed that hurt Mares so badly, Santa Cruz went so far as to say, “It looks like he still has that punch right there in his head.”
“My response to that is that, keep thinking that,” Mares said. “I’m not going to tell him otherwise. Keep thinking that. He’s going to have his thoughts in his mind, you know, that are brought to him by his team.
“He should be concentrating more about what I’m bringing to the ring, than what I’m thinking about my defeat, you know what I’m saying?”