Leo Santa Cruz calls out Rigondeaux, Frampton, Mares, Quigg
RING No. 2-rated junior featherweight Leo Santa Cruz aims “to put on a great show” in defense of his WBC title against Jesus Ruiz on the Jan. 17 undercard of a heavyweight bout between WBC titleholder Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
With a victory, Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 KOs) hopes to make a statement toward securing desired bouts opposite either RING champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, holder of the WBA and WBO belts, RING No. 1-rated IBF beltholder Carl Frampton or No. 3-rated Scott Quigg, all of whom are unbeaten.
Santa Cruz, 26, also covets a potential fight with three-division titlist Abner Mares, who scored a fifth round stoppage of featherweight Jose Ramirez last month.
“I want to put on a great show on Jan. 17,” said Santa Cruz, who will face Ruiz on Showtime, “and show boxing fans that I am a strong fighter ready to go to the next level and take on the top, tough fighters in the division: Guillermo Rigondeaux, Scott Quigg, Carl Frampton and Abner Mares.”
In his last fight in September, Santa Cruz easily handled over-matched Manuel Roman in two rounds on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s unanimous decision over Marcos Maidana.
“I feel great about my upcoming fight with Ruiz,” said Santa Cruz. “He is a strong fighter, undefeated in the past two years and the kind of opponent I want to fight.”
Ruiz (35-5, 22 KOs), 25, is 5-0-1 with one knockout since falling by unanimous decision to Christian Esquivel in April 2012 and is coming off last month’s unanimous decision over Leonilo Miranda.
“I want thank Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime for this great opportunity to fight for the world title. I know many believe I have no chance,” said Ruiz, “but I am well prepared and ready to give my all. I am ready for war and ready to leave it all in the ring like a true Mexican warrior.”
Also on the card will be junior welterweight prospect Amir Imam of Albany, N.Y., against hammer-fisted southpaw Fidel Maldonado Jr., a winner of six straight fights, the last five by knockout.
“This is by far the biggest fight of my career and I’ve got to show the world what I’ve got. I know that Maldonado is a southpaw and he comes forward and throws a lot of punches,” said Imam.
“I plan on boxing the kid for 10 rounds but if the opportunity for a KO comes, then I will go get it. I’m not letting anyone take this opportunity away from me. I have worked too hard for it.”
In his last fight on Dec. 13, Imam, 24, registered a sixth round knockout against Santos Benavides. The last win for Maldonado, 23, was by eighth round technical knockout over Nelson Lara in September.
“I am ready to get the job done and I hope he is ready,” said Maldonado Jr. “My goal is to show fans that I can put on a great show, step up the competition and get ready for a title match one fight at a time.”
Co-promoted by Golden Boy and Don King, the main event will match Stiverne and Wilder in a bout that is not likely to go the distance.
Stiverne, 36, is coming off a sixth-round technical knockout over Chris Arreola in May that earned the belt which had been vacated when Vitali Klitschko retired to pursue a political career in Ukraine. The victory also made Stiverne the first heavyweight champion of Haitian descent.
Stiverne-Arreola was a rematch of an earlier bout in April 2013, during which Stiverne floored Arreola in the third round of a unanimous decision victory. The 6-foot-2 Stiverne is 12-0-1 with nine stoppages since being knocked out in the fourth round by Demetrice King in July 2007.
A 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and the last American man to medal in Olympic boxing, Wilder, 29, is coming off a fourth-round knockout of Jason Gavern, whom he dropped in the third and final rounds in August.
Prior to Gavern, the 6-7 Wilder became Stiverne’s mandatory challenger with a 96-second knockout of Malik Scott in a WBC eliminator bout in March.
No U.S.-born fighter has held a heavyweight title since 2007, when Shannon Briggs lost a unanimous decision to Sultan Ibragimov and gave up the WBO strap he’d won from Sergei Liakhovich seven months earlier.
In 2006, Hasim Rahman held the WBC belt while the IBF title was held by Chris Byrd. John Ruiz, from Massachusetts, was the first Latino to hold a heavyweight belt when he became the WBA titlist in 2005.
Wilder owns a first-round stoppage of Liakhovich from August 2013.
“The year 2015 is going to be a huge year for boxing and Golden Boy’s opening act in Las Vegas will get things started with a bang,” said Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya.
“In addition to Deontay Wilder looking to bring a heavyweight title back to America for the first time in a decade, longtime favorite Leo Santa Cruz and rising star Fidel Maldonado Jr. – electric fighters with significant power – will both appear in separate fights on the undercard, giving boxing fans a chance to see three top stars in action on a single card.”