Saturday, March 25, 2023  |



Leo Santa Cruz: Jesus Ruiz is real, Rigondeaux is not invincible


[springboard type=”video” id=”1339517″ player=”ring003″ width=”648″ height=”511″ ]

As public workouts go there was no absence of fanfare at last week’s media event showcasing WBC junior featherweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz at the Who’s Next Boxing Academy in La Puente, California.

Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 knockouts) is preparing for his fourth title defense against Mexico’s Jesus Ruiz (33-5-5, 22 KOs) as part of the Bermane Stiverne-Deontay Wilder undercard on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Santa Cruz-Ruiz will be televised live on Showtime (10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT).

With no less than a five-piece band revving up the atmosphere at the packed gym, serenading Santa Cruz with energizing encores of The Eye of The Tiger as he jumped rope and did mitts center ring, it appears that unbeaten beltholder knows how to make a press event a real party.

Nevertheless, despite the rousing festivities, to date many have found the caliber of Santa Cruz’s opposition a bit lacking given his talent and potential. However, to those close to “Terremoto” (his nickname, which is Spanish for “Earth Quake”), as well as the fighter himself, Ruiz is a step in the right direction and a considerable test.

For doubters who might have a beef with the conservative choices made by Santa Cruz’s manager and top advisor, the increasingly ubiquitous Al Haymon, the 122-pound standout simply believes they fail to see things from his perspective.

“I feel bad for all the people talking, but if they were in my shoes, they would understand,” explained Santa Cruz, who along with having gone so far as naming one of his children after Haymon is one of the advisor’s staunchest supporters. In that vein, Santa Cruz is all about keeping steady eyes on his Jan. 17 opponent.

“Ruiz is a great fighter, a tough fighter,” Santa Cruz said. “Ruiz has fought good fighters and shown that he has talent and determination. I don’t take him lightly.”

Santa Cruz’s father and head trainer, Jose Santa Cruz, was in agreement with the quality of Saturday’s match at this point in his son’s career.

“The fact (Leo) is not fighting (Abner) Mares or (Guillermo) Rigondeaux, those are down the road and will happen,” said Jose Santa Cruz. “I would like (Leo) to fight Mares.

“A fight with (RING/WBA/WBO champ) Rigondeaux does not excite meÔǪ when he feels pressure or the heat, he is going to grab hold or run. I do not like Rigondeaux’s style and neither does the public. The only ones who want that fight are the Rigondeaux camp and his fans.”

Naturally, Rigondeaux’s rather pointed calling out of his son no doubt influenced Jose Santa Cruz’s decidedly sour review of Rigondeaux. Love him or hate him, Rigondeaux’s considerable talent level and fan base are certainly nothing to be dismissed or denied in the division. Interestingly enough however, in his last performance in Japan against Hisashi Amagasa, Rigondeuax made a point of showcasing a more fan friendly willingness to engage (and paid for it by suffering two knock downs against his unheralded opponent). Now might be the perfect time for a volume power puncher like Santa Cruz to take on Rigondeaux.

While his father might be making a public show of no interest in Rigondeaux, this new reality is certainly not lost on Santa Cruz, who is frustrated by fans’ criticism of his recent opposition.

“If it was up to me, I would fight (Rigondeaux) whenever,” Santa Cruz told “I am tired of people telling me that I am scared. I am looking for that fight as soon as possible. He is not invincible. I think I have a chance to beat him. I know he is a tough fighter, but that’s what we are here for, to fight the best.”

Still, Santa Cruz is focused on Ruiz and has trained for Saturday’s fight in the way that he always does irrespective of the figure across the ring: 100%.

“There is no difference in Leo’s training for this fight,” said co-trainer and brother Antonio Santa Cruz. “(Leo) always trains the same way. He trains very hard. We will teach him more combinations, but that is really it.”

Should Santa Cruz dispatch Ruiz as most expect on Jan. 17, fans will find out if the wait to see him fight Mares, Rigondeaux or any other top-shelf junior featherweight or featherweight has really come to an end.