- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The featherweight showdown between former three-division titleholder Abner Mares and reigning junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz figures to be highly competitive and entertaining on Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET).
It’s a tough fight to pick, but the PR folks at Swanson Communications, which handles media relations for the Premier Boxing Champions cards, compiled a number of predictions from fighters and trainers. Here’s a look at what some of them think will happen:
Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.: Mares W12. It's a good fight that will end in a very close decision. If Abner Mares has the proper strategy, then he can make it. But Mares has to be in good condition, physically and mentally. If he is not, then Leo Santa Cruz can win.
Juan Manuel Marquez: Mares W12. I think Abner Mares will win because he is a more technical fighter and more experienced. Leo Santa Cruz has the virtue of throwing good combinations, but has the defect sometimes in that he is very mechanical. Abner's virtue is very technical and he also throws good combinations. His defect is he cannot stand many punches.
Peter Quillin: Santa Cruz SD12. I honestly like them both. I like Leo Santa Cruz because he's relentless with pressure and lots of punching. Mares is very strong and a good boxer. I think Santa Cruz wins by a split decision in a really good fight
Paulie Malignaggi: Mares W12. In a good fight, I'm picking Abner Mares. He seems a bit more versatile than Leo Santa Cruz and has been in with better opposition. That experience can help a lot when your opponent doesn't have it.
Deontay Wilder: Santa Cruz TKO11. I'm going with my gut feeling and picking Leo Santa Cruz over Abner Mares. I see an 11th-round stoppage for Santa Cruz. I'm just going with a gut feeling on this one.
Omar Figueroa Jr.: Mares majority decision 12. I think that unless Leo Santa Cruz is really, really smart, then he's going to lose. I think that Abner Mares is stronger and obviously a naturally bigger fighter, and it depends on Santa Cruz and whether he's able to keep the distance. Santa Cruz is going to have to keep Mares outside, because if Mares manages to get inside and he's able to use his strength, then Santa Cruz will be in trouble. I think that it will be Mares by decision.
Shawn Porter: Santa Cruz W12. I give that fight to Leo Santa Cruz. I've known Leo for a very long time. We fought in the amateurs together and made some national trips together, so obviously that's where my heart lies. But I think that overall, he's got the work output and all of the intangibles to go with it to beat Abner Mares.
Jermall Charlo: Mares W12. I'm going with Abner Mares. He's a motivated fighter who wants to make up for his one loss. I'm thinking that he'll win a 12-round decision. Mares will try to load up, but that's only going to be to push Leo Santa Cruz backward. Santa Cruz is going to try to set the pace, but Mares is going to be the more dominant fighter in the end.
Jhonny Gonzalez: Santa Cruz KO8. I believe that Santa Cruz will win by a knockout in the later rounds. Abner Mares is not the same since I knocked him out.
Robert Guerrero: Mares SD12. This is a very tough fight to pick because both guys, when they are on top of their game, can beat anyone in their division. With that being said, I'm leaning toward Abner Mares because I believe he's got the better boxing skills. Leo Santa Cruz brings a lot of pressure and that could be troublesome for Abner. I'm picking Mares to win a close split decision.
Chris Algieri: Mares SD12. I'm going with Abner Mares by a split decision based on experience and better competition. This is a big fight for both men. Leo Santa Cruz is going to fight tooth and nail to keep that 0, and Mares always brings it and will scrap 'til the finish. Should be a fun fight to watch.
Miguel Diaz: Santa Cruz KO8. I worked about six or seven fights as the cut man in the corner of Abner Mares, and I worked the corner of an opponent against Leo Santa Cruz. Based on that, I would go in favor of Santa Cruz. I think that Santa Cruz has shown a great chin and what you need to be a champion, and the other guy, Mares was knocked out by Jhonny Gonzalez, who is a good puncher. I think it will be a knockout in the seventh or eighth round.
Ronnie Shields: Santa Cruz W12. It's a good fight, but I like Leo Santa Cruz because he's more of a boxer. Abner Mares is the bigger puncher, but Santa Cruz, the kid just fights to the level of his competition. I really like Santa Cruz and I think that he's going to win a good fight by a close, unanimous decision.
Virgil Hunter: Mares SD12. If Abner Mares boxes and uses his legs, he can present some problems to Santa Cruz, who sacrifices his height a lot. Being as tall as he is, he often squares up and fights too close. That can play into Abner's hands because he doesn't have to worry about the reach. I would have to say this is a pick-'em fight where it's hard to give one fighter the edge. Abner can win, but he's going to have to box. Leo can win with his volume punching. It's just hard to pick a sure winner, but maybe Abner by a close split decision.
Kenny Porter: Santa Cruz W12. Right now I'm going to say Leo Santa Cruz. I look forward to that fight. Leo's going to beat Abner Mares by a unanimous decision. I think that he will outwork him and outhustle him and outbox him. Leo's a combination guy, and he's boxing and he's punching and he's got pressure and he's got the volume and he's nonstop with his energy. He's a hustler who is constantly moving and working.