Dan Rafael: Leo Santa Cruz

Abner MaresGene Blevins/Hoganphotos/Golden BoyAbner Mares is interested in squaring off with all-action Leo Santa Cruz at featherweight in 2015.
If Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya has his way -- and he sounded awfully confident -- fight fans will be treated to a featherweight showdown in 2015 between Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz, which could be one of the most fan-friendly fights that can be made.

"I'm looking for Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz to fight next year," De La Hoya told ESPN.com on Wednesday night. "That's the fight I want to do to. That's a helluva fight. I can see a trilogy. That's my main focus."

Mares is a former bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight titleholder. Since an upset first-round knockout loss to Jhonny Gonzalez that cost him his featherweight belt in August 2013, Mares has fought just once, a 10-round decision win against Jonathan Oquendo on July 12. Mares will be back in action on Dec. 13 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the Devon Alexander-Amir Khan undercard.

Mares (27-1-1, 14 KOs) doesn't have an opponent yet, but he is not expected to face a top-tier opponent. With a win, Mares said he he'd love to fight Santa Cruz.

"Where do I sign? It's a great fight all around," Mares told ESPN.com. "It's good for boxing and Southern California fight fans. I see it happening at Staples Center soon and [you] best believe I will win. But I definitely think Leo is a strong fighter that, to me, hasn't been tested."

Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 KOs), a former bantamweight titlist and reigning junior featherweight titlist with three defenses on his résumé, would have to move up to featherweight, De La Hoya said. But Santa Cruz is expected to do so sooner than later anyway.

"The time is now," De La Hoya said. "Both guys are Los Angelinos and that fight belongs at the Staples Center. That's the plan I have when I sit down and talk to Al [Haymon, who manages both]. I'm looking at next week. It doesn't matter that there would be no world title [at stake]. It's the type of fight the fans want to see. That's what Golden Boy is about, making these types of fights. It's a great matchup and I am more than confident I can make that happen."

Santa Cruz, fans deserve bigger fight

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
Leo Santa CruzEsther Lin/ShowtimeAll-action boxer Leo Santa Cruz defends his junior featherweight title Saturday against Manuel Roman.
LAS VEGAS -- Junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz is one of the most fan-friendly fighters in boxing. He throws tons of punches and usually has a smile on his face inside an
d outside the ring.

The former bantamweight titleholder -- he vacated to move up in weight -- will make the third defense of his featherweight title Saturday night (Showtime PPV, 8 ET) in one of the most coveted spots a fighter could ask for: the co-feature of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s rematch with Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

But instead of fighting a big name or a unification bout, which Santa Cruz has called for, or even a top contender, he is fighting Manuel Roman (17-2-3, 6 KOs), his former sparring partner. This is not a fight worthy of such a massive platform.

It sure is a far cry from other recent Mayweather co-features, such as Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse or Amir Khan-Luis Collazo.

While Roman is a hard worker and a nice guy, he hasn't done a single thing of note to get this title shot -- much less in the co-feature of a major pay-per-view. He has never fought a scheduled 12-round fight, has had only two 10-rounders, and has been fighting mainly six- and eight-round fights.

Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 KOs) would prefer a bigger fight, but he accepted Roman because that is who manager Al Haymon put in front of him.

"I don't like saying no to no fights. The first guy they offered to me was [Roman]," Santa Cruz said Tuesday. "So I was like, 'yeah.' I wanted to give him the opportunity. He was a good amateur growing up. So I wanted to give him the opportunity. Everybody deserves it, so I said yes.

"I wanted to fight a bigger name or a champion, but I didn't want to contradict the promoter [Golden Boy] or [Haymon]. I just said, 'yeah,' and they made the fight."

It puts Santa Cruz in a no-win situation. If he cruises to a win, that's what he was supposed to do. If he loses, it's a disaster.

"Fighters like Roman are dangerous," Santa Cruz said. "They come with everything and sometimes they surprise you. We don't underestimate anybody and we always come ready.

"I know he will come hungry, but I have trained hard and I won't let that happen."

Roman, of course, is aiming for the huge upset.

"We're here to try to disappoint Leo Santa Cruz," Roman said. "I've been working out very hard three times a day and also focusing on strength and conditioning. Nothing worries me. I know myself, I'm ready. He's just a great fighter who throws a lot of punches, but I'm a better boxer.

"I've known Leo for a while. We used to train together and that builds my confidence up. I'm a great counterpuncher and he's a slugger, and I think that works to my advantage."

Assuming Santa Cruz beats Roman, he does want a unification fight next.

"Hopefully, we get the victory and we can fight [unified champion Guillermo] Rigondeaux and make that happen. If not, hopefully [newly crowned titlist Carl] Frampton or [secondary titleholder] Scott Quigg."

Frampton focused on Cazares

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
Kiko Martinez - Carl FramptonLawrence Lustig/Matchroom SportsCarl Frampton, right, needs to get past Hugo Cazares before entertaining thoughts of Leo Santa Cruz.
Junior featherweight contender Carl Frampton is poised for the biggest fight of his career, one that would lead to an even more significant fight with a victory.

First up, Frampton (17-0, 12 KOs) will play to a partisan crowd in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland when he faces former titlist Hugo Cazares of Mexico on April 4 in a final eliminator.

The winner of the fight at the Odyssey Arena will become the mandatory challenger for titleholder Leo Santa Cruz, an opponent Frampton has called out. Santa Cruz has returned the favor, saying after his last two fights that he would also like to fight Frampton -- a bout that would match high-pressure, crowd-pleasers.

But Frampton is first focused on Cazares, a wily southpaw veteran two-division titlist.

"The fight is now under three weeks away, it’s great to be back in Belfast and the camp has gone well," the 27-year-old Frampton said this week at a news conference in Belfast. "We're 100 percent focused on Hugo Cazares and it is my time to secure my world title shot. I want that green WBC belt and I know what I have to do to get my hands on it.

"It is brilliant to be fighting in my hometown against a former two-weight world champion and I can't wait for April 4th."

Cazares (40-7-2, 27 KOs), who turns 36 on Monday, is a very experienced former junior flyweight and junior bantamweight titleholder whose previous four bouts have been in the junior featherweight division. He is a big-time underdog, although he has won five fights in a row since losing his junior bantamweight belt by split decision to Tomonobu Shimizu in Japan in 2011.

"I am happy, my camp has been good and I am looking forward to boxing in Belfast," Cazares said at the news conference. "I know the crowd will be behind him but the only thing that matters is what happens in the ring. The fans, the people that come along can say what they want but nobody will help us in the ring.

"I just do my job in the best way I can. I plan on doing a great job against Carl Frampton and this will give me the chance for another world title. I know he's a strong fighter, he has fought with a Mexican fighter Raul Hirales and also KO'd Kiko Martinez. But there's a big difference between Kiko Martinez, Raul Hirales and myself."

LAS VEGAS -- Former junior middleweight titlist Canelo Alvarez, the star of Saturday night’s Showtime PPV card at the MGM Grand, will earn a minimum of $1.25 million for his main event against Alfredo Angulo, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Alvarez, however, likely will make much more. According to Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer, Alvarez’s deal with the company has him on an 80-20 split of the profits from the event in his favor. Angulo will earn a career-high $750,000.

Junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz will earn $500,000 for his defense in the co-feature. He will face former junior bantamweight champion Cristian Mijares, who will make $92,000.

Junior middleweight titlist Carlos Molina is due to make $275,000, but he might not fight, as he remains in jail on an immigration hold in Las Vegas. His opponent, Jermall Charlo, will make $100,000 if the fight happens.

Former two-division titlist Jorge Linares and Nihito Arakawa will make $50,000 apiece for their lightweight bout.

Lightweight Ricardo Alvarez, Canelo’s older brother, will make $100,000 for his fight with Sergio Thompson, whose purse is $50,000. Alvarez-Thompson is not scheduled to be on the pay-per-view broadcast but will move onto the PPV if Molina-Charlo is called off.

Alvarez was initially supposed to challenge lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa on the PPV, but when Figueroa dropped out because of a hand injury, Alvarez got a new opponent but was downgraded to the untelevised card.

Fighters talk Valentine's Day

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
AlvarezAlexis Cuarezma/Getty ImagesCanelo Alvarez and others competing on his March 8 card shared their thoughts on Valentine's Day.
Friday is Valentine's Day so even some rough and tough fighters are showing their softer side.

The PR folks working on the Canelo Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo Showtime PPV card, which takes place March 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, talked to the eight fighters who will be on the pay-per-view broadcast -- Alvarez, Angulo, Leo Santa Cruz, Cristian Mijares, Omar Figueroa, Ricardo Alvarez (Canelo's brother), Carlos Molina and Jermall Charlo -- to get their thoughts on the year's most romantic day.

The fighters were asked a few questions and here are their answers:

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Valentine's Day?

C. Alvarez: I think of joy.

Angulo: I just think about training.

Cruz: Love, friendship and family.

Mijares: I think of the love I have with my wife and children.

Figueroa: The colors red and pink.

R. Alvarez: Love.

Molina: Relationships.

Charlo: Hearts, flowers, mushy feelings and growing up.

What is the best Valentine's Day gift you've ever given or received?

C. Alvarez: The best gift I received is love.

Angulo: My favorite cologne that I can't find anywhere anymore.

Cruz: The best Valentine's gift I ever gave was a pink heart ring.

Mijares: Only my wife could tell you what the best gift that I've given her is. The best gift I've received is the love of my family.

Figueroa: The jewelry I've given to my mom or my sister. The best gift I have ever been given is the birth of my daughter. She is the best Valentine's Day gift from now until the day I die.

R. Alvarez: My best gift was a big teddy bear and a romantic dinner.

Molina: A picture my girl gave me of us back in the day.

Charlo: I have never received a Valentine's Day gift. I have always given. The best gift I ever gave was to my mom. It was a vacation to the Grand Canyon.

What is your favorite romantic movie or love song?

C. Alvarez: My favorite romantic movie is "Diario de una Pasion" ("The Notebook").

Angulo: My favorite romantic movie is "Titanic."

Cruz: My favorite romantic movie is "The Notebook."

Mijares: I really like the song "She's The One" by Robbie Williams. As for romantic movies I like "City of Angels."

Figueroa: I don't really watch those types of movies, but I liked the last one that I saw. It was "P.S. I Love You."

R. Alvarez: "Diario de una Pasion" ("The Notebook")

Molina: "Forrest Gump."

Charlo: "Pretty Woman."

Even though you're in training camp this Valentine's Day, will you be sending anything to anyone?

C. Alvarez: I don't look at Valentine's Day as the only day I make that person feel special.

Alfredo Angulo: No I will not.

Santa Cruz: I will be sending a very special gift to my love this Valentine's Day even though I'm in training camp.

Mijares: No, my mind is on my next fight so I haven't even thought about it.

Figueroa: Yes, I'm going to send an Edible Arrangement to my (16-month-old) daughter.

R. Alvarez: Yes, I will send a bouquet of roses to my wife.

Molina: Well, I will be going out for a light dinner in Chicago.

Charlo: Yes, I will be sending a Valentine's Day gift to someone special in my life.

Describe your perfect Valentine's Day date.

C. Alvarez: If I'm with the person I love, any place is perfect.

Angulo: A romantic dinner.

Cruz: My perfect Valentine's Day date is a romantic dinner followed by a bonfire on the beach.

Mijares: A perfect day would be one where I'm surrounded by my family.

Figueroa: The perfect Valentine's Day would be to spend time with the women in my life that I love the most: my mom, my sister and my daughter. I would take them out to dinner and pamper them.

R. Alvarez: My perfect date is in a restaurant with a romantic dinner.

Molina: Dinner and drinks on a warm day.

Charlo: A comedy show and relaxing.

On the card, Canelo Alvarez fights Angulo in the junior middleweight main event, Santa Cruz defends his junior featherweight title against Mijares, Figueroa defends his lightweight belt against Ricardo Alvarez and Molina defends his junior middleweight title against Charlo.

Santa Cruz, Mijares show respect

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
Leo Santa Cruz and Cristian MijaresGene Blevins - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions There's nothing but respect between Leo Santa Cruz and Cristian Mijares.

There was plenty of respect on display between junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz and former two-time junior bantamweight titleholder and Mexican countryman Cristian Mijares on Tuesday at the news conference in Los Angeles to formally announce the March 8 card they will be fighting on at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The Showtime PPV card is headlined by the junior middleweight fight between former titlist Canelo Alvarez and Mexican countryman Alfredo Angulo, but the always-entertaining Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15 KOs) and Mijares (49-7-2, 24 KOs), the mandatory challenger, meet in the interesting co-feature.

"I'm very happy and I'm very prepared for this fight. Mijares is a great fighter," said Santa Cruz, who will be making his second title defense. "When I was in the beginning of my career, I used to see him fight. I once sparred against Jose Navarro to help him [prepare to] fight against Mijares. I watched that fight and I know that he's a great fighter that will give me a tough fight.

"We come 100 percent ready and we're trying to the fans a great fight. Hopefully, it's one of the best fights of the night."

Mijares has won two fights in a row since losing a debatable split decision to Victor Terrazas for the vacant title last April. Santa Cruz knocked out Terrazas in the third round of Terrazas’ first defense to win the title in August. Now Mijares is getting another shot.

"I'm very happy to be on such a big card like this, in the co-main event of the big fight between Canelo and Angulo," Mijares said. "I'm motivated because I'm coming back. I know it's going to be a very good fight against Leo Santa Cruz because he's a very good fighter.

"I'm motivated. I'm coming here to win, I'm coming here to be a world champion. I'm not going to give away anything. I'm expecting to win. It's going to be a war. That's all I've got to say."

Malinga, Hall vie for vacant belt

December, 18, 2013
South Africa’s Vusi Malinga has twice before fought for a bantamweight world title. Neither went very well for him.

In 2009, he got knocked out in the first round by then-titleholder Hozumi Hasegawa in Japan. In 2012, he lost a near-shutout decision to Leo Santa Cruz in a fight for a vacant belt.

Now he is getting a third chance when he faces England’s Stuart Hall for a vacant belt on Saturday night (BoxNation in Great Britain) at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, England.

Even though Malinga (21-4-1, 12 KOs), 34, lost in his two world title bouts, he is a step up for Hall (15-2-1, 7 KOs), 33, who has won three in a row.

“I can’t believe that the time is near at hand,” Hall said. “I’ve been working and preparing for this opportunity for so long and to get the chance of getting my hands on a world title is a dream come true. I’m ready for this fight and whatever it takes, even if it means going through hell and back, then I’m willing to do that. I have everything in my favor and feel this is my time now. I want to go out there and do myself and the country proud."

Hall lost to his best opponent, a decision to Jamie McDonnell in a 2011 European bantamweight title fight in September 2011. McDonnell later claimed a world title but was stripped. Malinga and Hall will be fighting for that vacant belt.

“When you get to this level every fight and every fighter presents a new challenge,” Hall said. “I have shared the ring with some skilled and crafty fighters on my route here and know that Malinga is not coming over here to lie down.

“He’s going to do everything to make sure he goes back home with the belt, but I believe I’m going to have too much for him. My will and my drive for this fight is unbelievable and I’ve done some really excellent work to get me ready and in shape for this fight. Malinga is going to see the best Stuart Hall in there, one who is ready to do that bit extra in everything. I’m going for the knockout and believe I can get it because I don’t want to leave anything to chance and I want to take the decision out of the judges’ hands.”

If Hall wins, he said he would be happy to fight McDonnell, also from England, again.

“Of course, I would like to fight McDonnell again in the future,” Hall said. “Our fight was very close and I believe I have grown and learned so much from then. My aim is to get this world title first and foremost on Saturday and then I can look down the line. A rematch with McDonnell definitely appeals to me. It would be a huge domestic fight, particularly if there is world title on the line.”

Santa Cruz interested in Frampton

December, 17, 2013
Leo Santa Cruz Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesAfter defending his title against Cesar Seda, Leo Santa Cruz has his eyes on Carl Frampton.
SAN ANTONIO -- After Leo Santa Cruz retained his junior featherweight title for the first time, outpointing Puerto Rican southpaw Cesar Seda on Saturday night in an exciting fight at the Alamodome, he came to ringside and told those of us on press row that was interested in next defending against Carl Frampton, the top contender from Northern Ireland.

That was music to my ears because I happen to think that is a fantastic fight. Both are hungry, exciting fighters who always give the fans a good show. And you know that any fight with a top Mexican fighter against a top Irish fighter is going to have their fans in a lather.

Santa Cruz mentioned Frampton because Frampton called him out before Saturday’s fight.

“I think I beat him,” Frampton said before the fight. “I don’t know if I stop him or if I beat him on points. He’s very easily hit. He reminds of a smaller version of Antonio Margarito, and you saw what Manny Pacquiao did to him. Pacquiao is obviously a world-class fighter, an amazing fighter and probably my favorite fighter, but it’s movement.

“People with that sort of style, they can’t really seem to deal with movement, and if you’re moving around them and hitting them hard while you’re doing it, that’s what’s going to be their downfall and I can certainly do that.”

Although Frampton (17-0, 12 KOs) draws big crowds in Belfast, he said he would be willing to come to the United States to challenge Santa Cruz for his world title.

When told that Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15 KOs) had expressed a desire to fight Frampton, Barry McGuigan, the Hall of Fame former featherweight champion and Frampton’s manager, said simply, “I love it.”

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, Santa Cruz’s promoter, said it’s a fight that he would be interested in making and that he will address the possibility in the coming weeks when it’s time to discuss Santa Cruz’s next bout.

A lot to be thankful for

November, 26, 2013
Paulie MalignaggiNick Laham/Getty ImagesPaul Malignaggi could get another title opportunity ... if he defeat Zab Judah on Dec. 7.

Several fighters are training over Thanksgiving for their Showtime fights on Dec. 7 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Dec. 14 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

But while they won’t get stuff themselves with turkey on Thursday, they’re still thankful for what they have. Golden Boy’s media relations team asked the featured fighters on the two shows what they are thankful for year.

Dec. 7 fighters

Paulie Malignaggi (training in Brooklyn): "[I am thankful for] My family and my true friends, especially those that have stuck with me from the start."

Zab Judah (training in Las Vegas): "I am thankful for this time and that I get to be together with my family."

Devon Alexander (training in St. Louis): "I am very thankful just to be living and in the position I'm in to help a lot of kids and inspire them too. I'm really thankful for so many things in my life, but I can't mention them all because then the list would go on and on.”

Shawn Porter (training in Las Vegas): "I am most thankful for family because they are the most important thing to me.”

Erislandy Lara (training in Houston): "I am most thankful for being in the United State of America and for the freedom I have been given."

Austin Trout (training in Houston): "First and foremost I am most thankful for God, the Son of Jesus. Also, I am thankful for the love from my family, friends and fans. I have so much that I am grateful for including my health and career that allows me to provide for family."

Sakio Bika (training in St. Louis): "I am most grateful to have my family. Also, I am thankful that I have my health and a roof over my head because in this world there are a lot of disabled and homeless people."

Anthony Dirrell (training in Del Rey, Fla.): "I am most thankful for my family and getting this (super middleweight) world championship title opportunity. What I have been through has been amazing with the cancer (Non-Hodgkin lymphoma) and the motorcycle accident. Having the opportunity to recover and fight for the title means a lot to me."

Dec. 14 fighters

Adrien Broner (training in Colorado Springs, Colo.): "I am thankful to God for giving me the ability to take care of family, friends and children."

Marcos Maidana (training in Oxnard, Calif.): "I'm thankful for this opportunity that Golden Boy Promotions is giving me. I'm really excited about this fight because of the many more opportunities that will come my way if I win. I'm also grateful to the fans, all the Mexican fans that are showing me their support."

Keith Thurman (training in Clearwater, Fla.): "I am most thankful for my career in boxing. Boxing is the only job that I have ever had and the only job I have ever wanted and I am truly grateful for that."

Jesus Soto Karass (training in Los Angeles): "I am most thankful for my life and my family. I am grateful to have the love of my wife, kids, parents and siblings. I have the best in life with them. I am also grateful for my health."

Leo Santa Cruz (training in Los Angeles): "I am most thankful for my family, especially my brother. He still suffers from his illness [lupus], but he is doing much better.”

Cesar Seda (training in Salinas, Puerto Rico): "I am thankful to God for my health and all of the good things in life that have happened to me and my beautiful family. I know that this Thanksgiving I won't be able to be with my wife, kids, mother or my grandparents and the rest of my family, but they understand the sacrifice that I am making for their good. This Thanksgiving I pray that God blesses the whole world and that he brings a lot of peace. I am so grateful for the new opportunity he gave me to fight for a world title again."

Beibut Shumenov (training in Las Vegas): "As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am most thankful for my family. My father and mother raised me to be the person I am today and the continuous love and support from my brother, Chingis.”

Tamas Kovacs (training in Budapest, Hungary): "I am very thankful for my family and feel very grateful every day to see my kids and my wife. When I am preparing for a fight my family is always on my mind and in my heart. In my career I am very grateful for the opportunity that I can fight for the WBA title.”

WBC announces mandatory fights

November, 6, 2013
Floyd Mayweather Jr.Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsFloyd Mayweather has to decide soon on an opponent for his next fight.

As much as I rail against the WBC’s rule-breaking and divisional rankings, those rankings affect the mandatory fights that are made for the organization’s belt. So that makes its annual convention notable in that many of those mandatory situations are clarified.

This year’s convention is going on this week in Bangkok, where organization officials, promoters and managers gathered to argue and debate the rankings and mandatory fights that are not yet set.

Here’s a look at some of the key rulings related to mandatory fights made Wednesday:

• Heavyweight: The situation with titleholder Vitali Klitschko is up in the air. He is running for president of Ukraine in 2015 and has made no decision about his boxing career, even though his mandatory defense against Bermane Stiverne is way overdue. Klitschko addressed the crowd at its opening, but not about his boxing plans. Stiverne, however, was still traveling to Thailand on Wednesday, so the debate was put off until at least Thursday.

• Super middleweight: Titleholder Sakio Bika must make two mandatory defenses. The first is against Anthony Dirrell on Dec. 7. The winner of the fight was approved for one optional defense. Marco Antonio Periban and James DeGale were ordered to meet in a semifinal eliminator with the winner ordered to meet Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. to determine the second mandatory challenger. Keep in mind that these orders are the WBC’s wishes and that often what it lays out does not wind up happening because either a fighter decides to go in another direction or, as often happens, the WBC ignores its own ruling.

• Middleweight: If champion Sergio Martinez, sidelined with a knee injury, can’t make his mandatory defense against Marco Antonio Rubio, Rubio will be ordered to face Domenico Spada for the interim belt. This will be interesting because Martinez has no interest in Rubio and instead hopes for a June pay-per-view megafight with Miguel Cotto. It seems that Martinez, who has been very loyal to the WBC, will be allowed to face Cotto upon his return from injury with Rubio settling for the interim title bout for the time being.

• Junior middleweight and welterweight: Floyd Mayweather Jr. holds the WBC title in both divisions, as well as another alphabet junior middleweight title. Holding titles in multiple weight classes is against sanctioning organization rules, but that hasn’t stopped the WBC from allowing Mayweather to get away with it for 1˝ years. Finally, the WBC ruled that Mayweather must decide which division title he wants to keep by Dec. 15. If Mayweather doesn’t notify the WBC, however, I won’t believe it would strip him of the title until I see it happen. He is one of the WBC’s favorite sons in that he fills the coffers with enormous sanctioning fees.

• Junior welterweight: Danny Garcia’s last fight in September was his mandatory against Lucas Matthysse, but a final eliminator to determine the next mandatory was approved between Viktor Postal and Selcuk Aydin.

• Lightweight: Adrien Broner has the title, but he also won another organization’s belt this year -- in the welterweight division -- and has been allowed to keep both since the summer, which is against the rules. Broner is never going to see 135 pounds again -- did you see how he looked on Showtime on Oct. 26? -- but his request to wait to make a decision until after his Dec. 14 welterweight defense was approved. Daniel Estrada is the mandatory challenger. What should have happened is that Broner should have been forced to pick, and if he picked the welterweight belt (which he obviously would do), interim titlist Omar Figueroa should have immediately been elevated. But that would be too easy.

• Junior featherweight: A final eliminator between Hugo Cazares and Andres Gutierrez was approved to determine Leo Santa Cruz’s mandatory.

• Bantamweight: An eliminator was approved for Stephane Jamoye to face Julio Ceja, with the winner to fight Suriyan Sor Rungvisai in a final eliminator to determine Shinsuke Yamanaka’s mandatory.

• Junior flyweight: Adrian Hernandez’s mandatory will be the winner of an eliminator between Javier Mendoza and Yodmongkil Wor Saengthep.

• Strawweight: A final eliminator was approved between Wanheng Menayothin and Osvaldo Novoa to determine Xiong Zhao Zhong’s mandatory challenger.

Broner, Maidana fire first shots

October, 31, 2013
Marcos Maidana, Richard Schaefer and Adrien BronerEthan Miller/Getty ImagesMarcos Maidana and Adrien Broner headline a stacked card from the Alamodome in San Antonio.
The stacked Adrien Broner-Marcos Maidana card will close out the year for the American premium cable schedule on Dec. 14 (Showtime) at the Alamodome in San Antonio, where those involved gathered on Thursday for the kickoff news conference.

Broner (27-0, 22 KOs) is making the first defense of his welterweight title against mandatory challenger Maidana (34-3, 31 KOs) in the main event. Interim welterweight titlist Keith Thurman (21-0, 19 KOs) will face Jesus Soto Karass (28-8-3, 18 KOs) in the co-feature.

There are also two other world title bouts on the card as junior featherweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs) makes his first defense when he faces Cesar Seda (25-1, 17 KOs) and light heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KOs) meets Tamas Kovacs (23-0, 14 KOs).

The card will also feature the return of former welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs) from an 18-month layoff because of a broken jaw. He was supposed to fight Alfonso Gomez, but now is in need of an opponent after Gomez suffered a hand injury this week and withdrew.

Here's what the fighters had to say about the card, which Golden Boy Promotions is calling "Danger Zone," even thought it already used the same name a few years ago for Oscar De La Hoya's pay-per-view fight against Ricardo Mayorga.

• Broner: "Maidana is one-dimensional and not in my league. I'm a Ferrari and he's a go-kart and my fans will see that in my return to Texas. It's been over four years since I've fought [in Texas] and I'm going to put on a show. Watch me light Maidana up like a Christmas tree on Dec. 14."

• Maidana: "Everyone knows that Broner has a big mouth, but that doesn't bother me, because his mouth can't fight for him. Whether he has the guts to stand in front of me or if he runs I'll definitely go for the KO and, either way, I'm leaving the ring with the belt."

• Thurman: "Soto Karass is a tough guy, there's no question about that, and I respect him a lot. But his style is tailor-made for me and I expect to defend my title and win by knockout."

• Soto Karass: "Thurman is a young, talented fighter with good power, but as I proved in my fight with Andre Berto, when I'm on top of my game, no one can beat me. I will become a world champion on Dec. 14."

• Santa Cruz: "I'm looking forward to getting back in the ring and making my debut in Texas against Cesar Seda. Seda is a quality fighter and a top contender, but I'm not ready to give up my belt to him or anyone."

• Seda: "I admire Santa Cruz for his talent and his accomplishments, but styles make fights, and I have the style to beat him and bring the world championship back to Puerto Rico."

• Shumenov: "I am excited to be back in the ring and to compete on such an amazing event. It's been a long time [18 months] for me, and I'm hungry to beat Kovacs in impressive style and retain my title."

• Kovacs: "It has been my dream to fight in the United States against the best in the world, and on Dec. 14 I finally get my chance. Shumenov is a great champion, but I am confident in my ability to take his title."

Esquivias eyes Santa Cruz, title

September, 24, 2013
EsquiviasCarlos Baeza/Thompson Boxing PromotionsEfrain Esquivias says all his work is for just such an opportunity as a fight with Leo Santa Cruz.

Efrain Esquivias made a big impression when he knocked out former two-division champ Rafael Marquez in the ninth round of an exciting featherweight bout on Sept. 7, probably sending Marquez into retirement.

Esquivias (17-2-1, 10 KOs) is hoping to parlay the high-profile win into a shot at a junior featherweight title. Had Marquez won, Golden Boy was planning to give him a crack at 122-pound titleholder Leo Santa Cruz. But with Esquivias knocking Marquez out, he hopes that maybe he can get the opportunity.

"The [junior featherweight] division is filled with great fighters and champions, but the one guy that I would love to tangle with in the ring is WBC champion Leo Santa Cruz," the 30-year-old Esquivias said. "It will be an exciting fight for the fans. I like to throw a lot of punches, and so does Santa Cruz. It would be a great fight."

Esquivias, of Gardena, Calif., is right about that. The fight also might work in terms of scheduling. Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs), a former bantamweight titlist who won his junior featherweight title by third-round knockout of Victor Terrazas on Aug. 24, is due back in the ring on Nov. 2. That timing would probably work for Esquivias' next fight also.

"This is why I've been putting all the hours in the gym and staying active in between fights; it's for this opportunity," Esquivias said. "I have worked hard to fight a ring legend like Rafael Marquez and I think I have made my mark to get a shot at Santa Cruz. I'm willing to step up to the challenge, and I hope Leo is too. Let's make it happen."

Esquivias is enjoying his newfound recognition in the wake of the Marquez victory. He will make an appearance on Friday night at a card being put on by his promoter, Thompson Boxing, at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif., where he will sign autographs before watching the fights.

Wilder, Santa Cruz bouts in works

September, 19, 2013
Heavyweight Deontay Wilder and newly crowned junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz are both coming off impressive victories in which they barely broke a sweat, so both likely will be back in action in the coming weeks.

Wilder (29-0, 29 KOs), the 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and huge right-handed puncher, smashed former titleholder Sergei Liakhovich on Aug. 9, drilling him in the first round.

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told me Wednesday night that Wilder probably will return Oct. 26 to fight on the Showtime undercard of light heavyweight titlist Bernard Hopkins’ mandatory defense against Karo Murat at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.

Schaefer said he was talking with Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza about expanding the card to a tripleheader to include Wilder in the televised opener. Middleweight titlist “Kid Chocolate” Peter Quillin defends against Gabriel Rosado in the co-feature.

Schaefer said there was no opponent yet for Wilder.

Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs) vacated his bantamweight title earlier this year. In his second fight at junior featherweight, he knocked out Victor Terrazas in the third round to win another title on Aug. 24.

Schaefer said Santa Cruz will make his first defense (no opponent yet) Nov. 2 on a Showtime card. He said, depending on what the rest of the card looks like, the fight probably would take place at either the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. (where Santa Cruz won his title in August) or in San Antonio.

Mares-Santa Cruz is inevitable

August, 21, 2013

Leo Santa Cruz emerged in 2012 as one of the most exciting fighters in boxing and there is no sign of that letting up, in whichever weight class he fights in.

Last year, Santa Cruz, who throws punches non-stop, won a vacant bantamweight title and defended it three times in a series of exciting fights. He fought five times overall.

But troubled by making the 118-pound weight limit, Santa Cruz vacated his title, moved up to junior featherweight and demolished former junior bantamweight titleholder Alexander Munoz in five rounds in May on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero undercard.

Now Santa Cruz (24-0-1, 14 KOs) is set to challenge for a title in that weight class when he faces Victor Terrazas (37-2-1, 21 KOs), who will be making his first defense after winning the vacant belt via split decision against former junior bantamweight champion Cristian Mijares in April.

The fight figures to be another barn-burner and takes place Saturday night (Showtime, 10:25 ET with preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 8 ET/PT) at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Should Santa Cruz win the belt, don’t expect him to have a long reign. That is because the featherweight division will likely beckon for a major showdown with titleholder Abner Mares, should Mares (26-0-1, 14 KOs) retain his belt against former two-division titlist Jhonny Gonzalez (54-8, 46 KOs) in the main event.

Besides putting on a pair of likely action-packed fights on Saturday, Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer sees a Mares-Santa Cruz fight in the not-too-distant future, so what better way to lay the groundwork than by having them on the same card as a prelude?

“If that’s the biggest fight, which the fans want, the network wants, and has an opportunity to make a substantial amount of money for both fighters, then let’s do it,” Schaefer said, knowing, of course, that it will be the biggest makeable fight for both guys. “And I know that Abner and Leo are the kind of fighters that never turn down anyone. They’re always up for a challenge. Both of them are just tremendous fighters and both of them are really super nice guys outside of the ring, as well.

“They respect each other and they are both a pleasure to promote. So we at Golden Boy believe in the best fighting the best and if it’s going to happen with both of those guys, who are considered the best in these weight classes, we certainly won’t be standing in the way.”

If they both win Saturday, Mares and Santa Cruz probably would have one or two fights before they fight each other, but count on Schaefer putting it together. As Schaefer says often, he doesn’t like to let fights “marinate.”

“Let’s see what happens [Saturday]. I think both fighters should have maybe a couple or so title defenses and then we’ll see, assuming everything goes well,” Schaefer said. “But let’s do first things first.”

Mares and Santa Cruz are friendly with each other outside the ring, but that would not stand in the way of a fight between them, especially since they would both earn considerable purses.

“If everything goes good I will win the title and hope to defend it. [But] if the fans want the fight, I would want that fight,” Santa Cruz said. "He’s my friend. We talk good and everything. I wouldn’t want to fight him, but if the fans want it we’d have to give it to them, because we have to give what the fans want and if they want that fight we will make it happen.”

Terrazas and Gonzalez, of course, stand in the way. Terrazas is riding an 11-fight winning streak since 2010. Gonzalez is a big puncher with tons of experience.

“I know that with Terrazas it’s going to be a great fight. He’s a warrior,” Santa Cruz said. “He’s a Mexican fighter, he comes forward with pressure in the ring. I’m going to do the same, because I want that title. I know he wants to defend the title. I know how we are, that when we win something we don’t want to lose it and I know he had struggled a lot for to win that title and that he’s going to come 100 percent prepared too. But I’m the same. I want that title.”

Mares card should lick summer lull

July, 12, 2013
The summer is usually a slow time for boxing, but there are at least a handful of higher-profile shows here and there to get us all through, including one for which the promotion kicked off on Thursday at a news conference at a Los Angeles Mexican restaurant.

Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya formally announced a world title doubleheader on Aug. 24 (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET) at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., and it's a good-looking show: featherweight titlist Abner Mares making the first defense of his belt against former titlist Jhonny Gonzalez in the main event and junior featherweight titlist Victor Terrazas in a mandatory defense against former bantamweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz in the co-feature.

Mares (26-0-1, 14 KOs) won the belt -- his third in three divisions in just 19 months -- on May 4 by knocking out Daniel Ponce De Leon in the ninth round on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero undercard in Las Vegas.

Last September, Gonzalez (54-8, 46 KOs) suffered a bad cut from an accidental head-butt and was unable to continue in an eighth-round technical decision, losing the belt to Ponce De Leon. Gonzalez is seeking to regain his old title.

Terrazas (37-2-1, 21 KOs) won a vacant 122-pound world title on April 20 in Mexico City via split decision against former junior bantamweight champion Cristian Mijares. He will be making his first defense against Santa Cruz (24-0-1, 14 KOs), who vacated a bantamweight belt to move up in weight.

Here's a little of what the fighters and De La Hoya had to say at Thursday's news conference:

Mares: "I'm looking forward to fighting in front of my hometown fans on Aug. 24 at StubHub Center. Jhonny Gonzalez and I have a lot of respect for each other, but we know what's at stake. I'm confident that we're going to put on an explosive fight that fans will want to see."

Gonzalez: "The belt belongs to me. It's time it returns to my waist. I will give it everything I've got on Aug. 24."

Terrazas: "I've made many sacrifices throughout my career to win this belt and I'm not about to give it away. It's obvious that Leo Santa Cruz is a talented fighter, but it's going to take more than that for me to go back to Mexico without the belt."

Santa Cruz: "I'm very honored to be fighting for the WBC world championship and I'm extremely motivated to train hard to take this belt home. I will not let this opportunity get away from me. I will become world champion once again."

De La Hoya: "This doubleheader reminds me of great Los Angeles fight nights when you would see great Mexican fighters battling it out in the ring while the crowd went crazy. That's what we have with Mares versus Gonzalez and Terrazas versus Santa Cruz -- four Mexican warriors fighting not only for a world championship, but for pride."