Year after year, Leo Santa Cruz has graced the lists of boxing’s most exciting fights, including in 2015 when he beat Featherweight rival and fellow Mexican/American Abner Mares in a thrilling world title match.
Now the pair of three weight world champions meet again in an eagerly anticipated rematch, set to once again earn their place on the fight of the year ballots.
Santa Cruz 34-1-1(19KO’s) has since lost his unbeaten record, but regained his WBA Featherweight title when he stunned Carl Frampton in a rematch of their 2016 classic. Santa Cruz – known as a rangy brawler – boxed to perfection that night and Frampton had no answer to that.
For Mares, that night in 2015 was the beginning of rebuilding a career that hit the rocks when he was sparked in one round by Jhonny Gonzalez in 2013. But having been second best in their first meeting, it will take some turn around to dethrone a champion who seems to have only improved since that meeting almost three years ago.
It has also been solitary fights in 2016 and 2017 for Mares, meanwhile the 29-year old Santa Cruz has been active, fighting at world level twice in both those years.
Mares 31-2-1(15KO’s) is likely to take a similar approach to their first meeting, only this time – having seen how well Santa Cruz can box against Frampton – he must up the ante another notch. And that may be a tough ask, Santa Cruz has one of the best engines in world championship boxing, and Chris Avalos will attest to just how tough it can be to go through the gears with Santa Cruz – Avalos worked tirelessly before succumbing in round 8.
As fun as this bout may be – and however much fans would love to be treated to a classic rubber match – this seems just too tall of an order for Mares.
The challenger can make his presence felt from the fights opening to its conclusion, but Santa Cruz will always be one step ahead.
Mares will feel that he is doing the better work of the two, but those swift one-two’s from Santa Cruz will be landing at will. The champion will never look in complete control, thanks to Mares’ constant aggression, but he will at least be doing enough to take more rounds than his rival.
Mares will tire down the stretch, and with the end in sight, ‘El Terremoto’ will cruise to the finish line, retaining his world title on the scorecards.