RING ratings update: Leo Santa Cruz crashes featherweight division
Leo Santa Cruz on Saturday became a major player in the featherweight division.
The former bantamweight and junior featherweight titleholder defeated Abner Mares by a majority, but convincing decision in an action-packed fight – the biggest of Santa Cruz’s career – at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
As a result, Santa Cruz, No. 2 at junior featherweight last week, relinquishes his 122-pound rating and enters the 126-pound ratings at No. 4. He said at the post-fight press conference that he plans to remain at featherweight.
Mares, who gave a gallant effort against his Los Angeles-area rival, held the No. 4 position last week. He drops to No. 6 after the setback, behind No. 5 Lee Selby.
Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 knockouts) immediately became a potential opponent for the likes of No. 1 Nicolas Walters, No. 2 Vasyl Lomachenko and No. 3 Gary Russell Jr. but only Russell, with whom Santa Cruz shares promoter PBC, seems to be a realistic possibility among those stars for the time being.
Two more big-name possibilities are 122-pounders Guillermo Rigondeaux (champion) and Nonito Donaire (No. 4). A rematch with Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) also is an option.
The point here is that Santa Cruz is in an excellent position for a big-money fight the next time out. That’s what happens when you win a big fight on a big stage in impressive fashion.
Junior featherweight: Mexican slugger Julio Ceja (unrated last week) rallied from a third-round knockdown to stop countryman Hugo Ruiz (No. 10 last week) in the fifth round on the Santa Cruz-Mares card.
Thus, Ceja (30-1, 27 KOs) enters the 122-pound ratings at No. 9 and Ruiz (35-3, 31 KOs) exits. Ceja was behind on all three cards after four rounds.
The departure of Santa Cruz opened up another slot, which allows Manuel Avila (18-0, 8 KOs) to enter at No. 10.