Friday, March 31, 2023  |



Leo Santa Cruz sees opportunity of a lifetime on Mayweather-Pacquiao card

Fighters Network
Jan. 17, 2015: Leo Santa Cruz (R) smashes Jesus Ruiz en route to an eighth-round TKO in Las Vegas. Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images.

Jan. 17, 2015: Leo Santa Cruz (R) smashes Jesus Ruiz en route to an eighth-round TKO in Las Vegas. Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images.

In the mind of Leo Santa Cruz, he has just won the lottery.

When he heard that the mega fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao had finally come to fruition, his father immediately suggested that he call Al Haymon to lobby for a spot on the card. But as bad as “Teremoto” wanted a fight on the undercard, he felt that there were far too many other fighters who could get that spot. Not to mention that he’d already had an opportunity as he scored a second-round knockout against Manuel Roman on the undercard of Mayweather-Maidana II.

“I didn’t think I’d be on this card but Al Haymon called me and asked if I would be ready for May 2,” Santa Cruz said to RingTV from the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas. He was almost incredulous at the inquiry but realized that Haymon was serious and wasted no time accepting the fight against a still-unnamed opponent. “I never dreamed of being on a card this big. This is like a dream come true for any fighter.”

Although he hasn’t a clue who his opponent might be, he doesn’t really care as long as he has the opportunity to showcase his talent once again on the undercard of a Floyd Mayweather bout. Keenly aware that stars can be born on high-profile undercards, the 29-0-1 (17 knockouts) fighter with a penchant for throwing a seemingly non-stop barrage of punches is ready for whoever, whenever.

Except for one person.

After it was announced that Santa Cruz had been added to the Mayweather-Pacquiao card, Abner Mares hit social media to express his desire to be Santa Cruz’s opponent. However, as much as Santa Cruz would love to fight Mares, he’s not interested in facing him at this time.

“I would never fight him on three weeks’ notice,” Santa Cruz said of Mares, who last fought on March 7 and struggled with the flu as he beat Arturo Santos Reyes by unanimous decision. Despite the wide margin of victory for Mares, he looked sluggish and took a lot more punishment than he expected. With a very narrow window between now and May 2, Santa Cruz doesn’t feel that Mares would be at his best for the fight. “I do want to fight him but not under those circumstances. Three weeks is not enough and he knows it. I want him to be at 100 percent so he can have no excuses when he loses. He needs to be at his best so that we can give the fans a great fight.”

More than likely, it will be a talent showcase for Santa Cruz against an opponent that won’t be considered too dangerous. However, after he handles his business on May 2, Santa Cruz says that he wants to line up his next fight as early as September. And one of the names on his hit list is newly crowned WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr.

“That would be a great fight for me because we fought already in the amateurs,” Santa Cruz said. Russell beat Santa Cruz several years ago and the 26-year-old admits that he would love to avenge that loss. And even though Russell recently told RingTV that Santa Cruz is still the same fighter, Teremoto disagrees and is ready to prove it.

“I have a lot more experience at this level now and I throw a lot more punches than I did before,” he stated.

But Santa Cruz doesn’t want to waste too much time looking into the future because May 2 is coming up fast and he’ll have to make a loud statement for the millions tuning in to see what is certainly the biggest fight of the decade.

“Any fighter would like to be on this undercard and now that I have the opportunity I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to show the world who Leo Santa Cruz is.”