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."