And “Teremoto” is more than happy to oblige his adoring public.
“I like doing what I do. I owe it all to the fans,” he said to Maxboxing last week at the Who’s Next Boxing Academy in the City of Industry before his days work. “When they come up to me, I stay there till there’s no more fans. Some other fighters, they leave right away or they just stay there a little while. I stay there till all the fans are taken care of.”
Santa Cruz doesn’t mind the recognition. In fact, he seems to relish it. “It’s exciting. It makes me happy knowing that there’s a lot of people that know you and stuff like that. It makes you value all the things you’ve done.”
He may not be a superstar or a marquee attraction just yet but it’s clear he’s a fighter on the rise, of blue-chip boxing stock. He’s developing a following because of his fan-friendly style and affable demeanor. Santa Cruz began 2012 as a relative unknown, an overlooked prospect on the West Coast. He ended it as a fighter on the rise. He not only became a Showtime staple but also made a rare appearance on CBS to close out the year. It was at that point when his career and life had changed.
“My career has been going up ever since I’ve been with my manager [Al Haymon] and my life too has changed,” said the 25-year-old Santa Cruz, 25-0-1 (15). “I can say I have everything I need. I have a house and I don’t really struggle much like before. We used to struggle a lot and stuff like that.” But don’t worry about motivation being a problem for him. Boxing isn’t really just what he does; it’s what he is. Santa Cruz has a work ethic and passion for the sport that is rare. “I stood the same because I want the best for my family and what I’ve been doing right now, it’s enough. I want to do a lot more, win more titles in different weights, so I can get my family and my daughter a good life.”
Moving forward, less will be more for Santa Cruz. The days of him performing five times a year are probably over. As he makes more money and gets involved in more high-profile events, he won’t fight as frequently but will make more money in doing so. Such is the boxing business in the 21st century. This year, there was an emphasis on scaling back his workload after an active 2012.
Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker, Eric Gomez, who has mapped out this career says, “Obviously, once you’re a champion, you gotta get your rest and that’s a big part of it and Leo’s just a workhorse. He doesn’t believe in rest. So after we saw he was sluggish towards the end of last year, he had looked very sharp and strong [at the beginning of the year] and you could see he was tired a little bit. And it’s a combination of also that he’s a growing kid. He’s getting bigger and stronger, so we felt that the rest was going to do him good and also let him grow into his body. So now obviously, he’s a champion. Most champions fight maybe twice a year, maybe three times - but he’s getting paid well now. He’s making some good money and he’s getting paid well and it seems like it worked out for the best.”
Last year, Santa Cruz fought Victor Zaleta on November 10th (scoring a ninth round stoppage) and he had a quick turnaround, decisioning Alberto Guevara on December 15th. He looked especially flat versus Guevara and did not return to the ring till this past May 4th, when he halted the faded Alexander Munoz on the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero undercard.