Abner Mares sets his sights on Leo Santa Cruz in 2015
Three-division titlist Abner Mares said he is “looking forward to” a potential bout against Leo Santa Cruz in 2015 should he get beyond a featherweight opponent to be determined in support of a Dec. 13 Showtime-televised event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Mares (27-1-1, 14 knockouts) is to be part of an event headlined by former titleholders Amir Khan and Devon Alexander in a welterweight bout. Keith Thurman and Leonard Bundu will also face each other in a 147-pound clash of unbeatens.
In his last fight in September, Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 KOs) dropped and stopped Manuel Roman in the second round in defense of his WBC junior featherweight belt on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s unanimous decision over Marcos Maidana.
Mares is from Montebello, Calif., near Los Angeles, which is about 20 minutes from Santa Cruz’s native Rosemead. In addition, both boxers are advised by Al Haymon and promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, whose president, Oscar De La Hoya, wants to see the bout happen.
“It’s a fight that has been talked about for so many years now. Two, to be exact, and I can see why it has been talked about. Leo Santa Cruz is a great fighter from LA and I’m another fighter coming out of LA as well. It’s just perfect for a fight here in Los Angeles for the Staples Center. As a fight fan and as a fighter, I would be happy to fight here against him,” said Mares of Santa Cruz, 26.
“There would be a great deal of magnitude to that fight and I’m looking forward to it happening. Oscar has said that he would do whatever he can do to get this fight going. You have to keep in mind that we’re both signed by Al Haymon and as fighters, Oscar would have to go through him as well. But with that said, I think that it’s a perfect fight for both of us.”
Mares, 28, fought under trainer Virgil Hunter for his last fight in July, surviving a cut over his left eye en route to a unanimous decision win over rugged Jonathan Oquendo on the undercard of Canelo Alvarez’s split decision victory over Erislandy Lara.
Oquendo represented Mares’ first fight since August 2013 when he was dethroned as WBC featherweight titleholder in a shocking first-round knockout loss to Jhonny Gonzalez, who floored him twice.
Since facing Oquendo, Mares has since returned to to longtime trainer Clemente Medina, calling his decision “more about comfort than anything.”
“With our relationship, it’s just like it was between us from Day One. It’s the same between us, really. We haven’t lost anything. It was just a couple of months that I went to Virgil but we had many years together before that, Clemente and I,” said Mares, who was THE RING’s No. 5-rated pound-for-pound fighter entering the bout with Gonzalez.
“So right away, we adapted right back to where we always had been. I’m planning to prove to everyone that I’m back and ready to go straight to the top again…People are saying that I’m tentative, and they’re basing that off of just one fight that I lost. But I’m coming off of a tremendous three-year run against some great fighters to get into this position. So this makes no difference to me.”
Mares has twice beaten ex-beltholder Joseph Agbeko, earned a decision over former titlist Vic Darchinyan, battled to a draw with then-titleholder Yonnhy Perez, with all four fights coming within a 20-month span as a bantamweight.
After defeating Agbeko by consecutive majority and unanimous decisions, the latter in December 2011, Mares rose to 122 pounds for a unanimous decision over ex-beltholder Eric Morel for the vacant WBC belt in April 2012.
In November 2012, Mares scored a unanimous decision over WBA bantamweight titleholder Anselmo Moreno, who rose in weight to challenge for the junior featherweight belt. Mares dropped the Panamanian in the fifth round and ended his 27-bout winning streak.
A notorious body-puncher, Santa Cruz unanimously decisioned Vusi Malinga for the IBF’s bantamweight belt in June 2012. Santa Cruz defended that title three times, twice by stoppage, including a fifth-round knockout in September 2012 that retired Morel.
Santa Cruz won his 122-pound debut by fifth-round knockout over Alexander Munoz in May 2013. In August 2013, Santa Cruz took another step up in stature by scoring two knockdowns on the way to a third-round stoppage that dethroned Victor Terrazas for his WBC strap.
“I would love to fight Santa Cruz but it would have to be a fight above 122 pounds because I definitely won’t make weight at 122. I think that it’s no issue. Santa Cruz could move up a bit, maybe to 124, and it doesn’t have to be a title fight if he doesn’t want to go up to 126. But I definitely can’t make 122 any more. I definitely can’t. If his idea is to move up in weight, then we’ll make it at featherweight,” said Mares.
“But for right now, I’m getting ready for this next fight, which is Dec. 13. I’ve been sparring with every style that you can think of, from southpaws to short guys to tall guys. I’ve been sparring against them all. We’re close to reaching 100 rounds and we still have a few weeks left. So the sparring and training has been great and I’m well ahead of schedule. So just bring on the big names and I’ll fight them.”