It was a normal boxing media workout in downtown Los Angeles. The City of Angels Boxing Club isn’t Leo Santa Cruz’s current home gym but it is located in his old neighborhood. As the boxing media piled into the gym surrounding a forlorn practice ring and Santa Cruz sat on its steps administering his own hand wraps, the inspirational words adorned on each step define this fighter and could be his family’s unofficial credo: Achieve. Believe. Dream. What Are You Fighting For?
Leo Santa Cruz Is Ready For An Abner Mares Rematch
Leo Santa Cruz is innately intuitive, a clairvoyance honed only by the sharp reflexes of someone avoiding the punches an opponent throws at you. This boxing skill transitioned into an overall life skill, and when he can see the pain in his father’s expression or sees him sitting more than standing, he knows his father should probably go home. But he also knows that he won’t.
Still, his presence ignites Leo and despite what he knows has to be a painful ordeal, the stately Santa Cruz patriarch is here in his son’s corner today. And he’ll be there on June 9 when Santa Cruz (34-1-1, 19 knockouts) meets Abner Mares (31-2-1, 15 KOs) at the Staples Center.
“I try to motivate my dad as much as I can by training hard,” said Leo. He says he’s happiest when I’m working hard so I just keep trying to push it every day and make sure he’s happy.”
Two years ago, Jose Santa Cruz battled myeloma, a bone cancer near the spine. Although the cancer is in remission, it is clear that he is not out of the woods yet and that the metal plate in his back still pains him. Amid all of this, the symbiotic relationship between the father and son is the key to the younger Santa Cruz’s success.
His father is his motivation and to see him make the arduous trek to the gym to support his golden child with his presence and council is why Leo Santa Cruz is encroaching upon becoming one of the best featherweights in boxing history.
“There are a lot of great fighters out there but not many have good defensive techniques and that is where every fighter can improve,” said Jose Santa Cruz. “With my kids and with Leo, I have always trained him to be good defensively because anyone can throw punches but not everyone can take a punch and keep going. I have always loved this sport but I love to win even more. Leo is still growing but I think he’s the best fighter at featherweight right now.”
Who will be the King of LA? Don’t miss Santa Cruz vs. Mares II on June 9.
Santa Cruz and Mares first battled in August of 2015 at the Staples Center, with Santa Cruz earning the majority decision and a vacant featherweight title. The consensus top-five featherweights put on a remarkable performance that saw them throw over 2,000 punches combined. The fight instantly became a classic and branded the two as Southern California’s new rivalry.
Mares, a four-division world champion has looked especially strong lately, winning the WBA featherweight belt in December 2016, then dominating Mexico’s Andres Gutierrez last October. It was also on this card that Santa ‘Cruz stopped Chris Avalos by eighth-round knockout.
“Leo is the kind of fighter who always rises to the occasion and always finds a way to come out victorious,” said Richard Schaefer, Chairman & CEO of Ringstar Sports. “It’s really a 50-50 fight. I can give you a lot of reasons why both guys are going to win. It’s the best fight on June 9 and it’s one of the best fights you’re going to see this year.”
If victorious, Santa Cruz said he has no problem continuing the series with Mares, making it a trilogy for the fans of fast rock ’em sock ’em featherweight action. With a potential rematch with Carl Frampton, and Gary Russell, Jr. still holding the green belt and declaring he only has 6-7 fights left in his career, Santa Cruz is primed for a career that is veering close to becoming legendary.
As a man of faith who cites God as his main source of inspiration, his father will always be the driving factor for the heart of a champion that is fighting not for his first name, but for his last.