Sunday, June 04, 2023  |


Leo Santa Cruz trying to turn elevator music into a Billboard Hot 100 hit

Fighters Network
Leo Santa Cruz (L) would go on to win a shutout decision over Cristian Mijares in this 2014 fight. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images.

Leo Santa Cruz (L) would go on to win a shutout decision over Cristian Mijares in this 2014 fight. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, the casual fan could care less about the undercard of Mayweather-Pacquiao. For the millions that will be coughing up $100 to watch, the only thing they truly care about is the two megastars headlining the card. Everything else is elevator music. Only die-hard boxing fans will bat a lash at an undercard. Even then, in a fight of this magnitude, the opportunity to be on this undercard might sound better than it really is.

The reality is that, while an honor, being on the undercard of a major fight likely means that you will be performing in a relatively empty arena where the most populated section will be where the media sits. Especially in Las Vegas where it is standard fare for the buying public to trickle in moments before the main event. And, in this case, the buying public is made up of celebrities and calculated businessmen with extremely deep pockets who are only there to say that they were part of history. It’s more spectacle than substance.

The thing about elevator music, though, is that you have to be in the elevator to hear it. And if somebody is listening, even subconsciously, you have an opportunity to impress.

Which is exactly what Leo Santa Cruz is hoping when he faces the relatively unknown Jose Cayetano in the fight right before the main event.

“I know all of these people are here to see Mayweather and Pacquiao,” Santa Cruz told RingTV when asked about the gift and the curse of being on an undercard of such a huge fight. “But there are going to be a lot more people than usual who have never seen me before. I want to show them who Leo Santa Cruz is so I can get more attention and land the bigger fights that I need.”

When Santa Cruz was initially offered the opportunity to fight on the undercard of the biggest fight of this generation, he could care less who it was going to be against. However, he admits now that some part of him wishes he would have had a more recognizable name to face in his 126-pound fight.

“I wanted a bigger name because I don’t like to hear criticism from the fans,” Santa Cruz explained. “I want to fight the best opponents out there. But it’s not up to me. I have to listen to what my team says.”

The undefeated Santa Cruz (29-0-1, 17 knockouts), who was ranked No. 2 at junior featherweight by THE RING before moving up in weight, is a heavy favorite to beat Cayetano (17-3, 8 KOs) and that has knocked some luster out of his fight. He’s heard the cries on social media for him to face an Abner Mares or Guillermo Rigondeaux and says that it does frustrate him because he wants to give fight fans what they want.

“Sometimes I get frustrated when I hear them talk about who I’m fighting and it makes me wish I had the key to go and get those fights,” he said. “I feel bad because the fans are the reason why I’m here and not being able to give them what they want really makes me feel bad. I want to make them happy.”

So if there’s one thing that Santa Cruz can do to turn that elevator music into a Billboard Hot 100 song, it’s take care of business in the most spectacularly brutal display possible.

“I want to look spectacular and get him out of there really fast,” Santa Cruz said while noting that he was able to wrangle together some tickets so his family would be able to witness his performance. He is aware that he needs to be impressive and leave viewers wondering, “Who the hell was that guy?”

Yeah, the undercards are elevator music but Santa Cruz and his tornado of punches are determined to grab your attention before the main event takes place. And once he has your attention, he promises not to let go.