Leo Santa Cruz will make the first defense of his featherweight world title when he takes on former junior featherweight titleholder Kiko Martinez.
The fight, formally announced Wednesday, will take place Feb. 27 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, and headline a "Showtime Championship Boxing" card (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET).
"I'm excited to have another opportunity to fight in front of my L.A. friends," said Santa Cruz, a Mexico native based in the Los Angeles area. "I've been in the gym and staying ready for anyone that's put in front of me. I'm going to be 100 percent ready for this fight, and I plan to go out there and look great."
Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs), 27, won world titles at bantamweight and junior featherweight before vacating them to move up in weight. He then claimed a vacant featherweight belt by majority decision against former three-division titleholder Abner Mares on Aug. 29 in an action-packed ESPN-televised fight between friendly Los Angeles rivals at the Staples Center.
Martinez (35-6, 26 KOs), 29, of Spain, has won three fights in a row and four of his last six bouts, but the four wins came against low-level opposition, and the two losses were one-sided defeats in world title bouts. He lost his belt by near shutout decision to Carl Frampton in September 2014 and was blown out in two rounds by Scott Quigg last July. He will be a heavy underdog against Santa Cruz.
A victory by Santa Cruz could set him up for a defense against the winner of the junior featherweight title unification bout between Frampton (21-0, 14 KOs) and Quigg (31-0-2, 23 KOs), who meet earlier on Feb. 27 in Manchester, England, in a much anticipated bout. Showtime will air the Frampton-Quigg bout live in the afternoon with a replay on the same telecast as Santa Cruz-Martinez.
"I'm thrilled for the opportunity to face off against Leo Santa Cruz on Feb. 27," said Martinez, who is promoted by former middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez (no relation). "Santa Cruz is clearly one of the very best featherweights in the world, but I have what it takes. I've already begun working very hard with my longtime trainer, Gaby Sarmiento, and I will be victorious.
"Leo and me are true warriors, and this fight will be a brutal war. Leo is a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter. I am very conscious of that point."
The fight will be Martinez's second in the United States. His first came in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 2013, when he upset Jhonatan Romero to win a junior bantamweight world title. Martinez successfully defended the title twice before being routed by Frampton.
The televised co-feature has not been determined yet, but among the bouts under consideration are a title defense by featherweight titleholder Gary Russell Jr. (26-1, 15 KOs) or a rematch between junior featherweight titlist Julio Cesar Ceja (30-1, 27 KOs) and Hugo Ruiz (35-3, 31 KOs). Ceja knocked out Ruiz in the fifth round of an action-packed fight to win the vacant 122-pound belt, which Santa Cruz had vacated, on the Santa Cruz-Mares undercard.