WBA Featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares met face to face at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday to discuss their world championship rematch taking place Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on June 9.
Santa Cruz and Mares first battled in August 2015 at the Staples Center with Santa Cruz earning the majority decision and the vacant featherweight title. Now, Santa Cruz will put his WBA Super Featherweight Title on the line against the WBA Regular Featherweight titleholder, Mares.
Santa Cruz will be just as focused as the first fight and expects Mares to be in even more difficult to beat than last time. Speaking to the boxing media, Santa Cruz said: “It was a really close fight the first time. Before the fight, I told him I would give him the rematch, just like I would have wanted if I lost. Now is the time and I think this fight is going to be even better than the first fight. Mares will be better with Robert Garcia. He has many champions and I’ve seen the improvement. That’s great motivation for me.
Santa Cruz added: “I know he’s going to seek revenge, but I’m not going to let that happen. My dad is a smart man too and he always knows how to send me to the ring with the right style.
“When two Mexicans get in there, you know it’s going to be a war. I hope everyone comes out June 9 because it’s going to be a fight to remember.
“Every time I step into the ring, I do it for the fans. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. I always want the fans to go home happy. I want to give the fans a great show on June 9 just like in the first fight.
The 29 year-old also expects Mares to approach the fight differently than last time will make the necessary adjustments: “I think that Abner is going to be a little smarter than the first fight. He said in the first fight he didn’t train for the right fight. I know Robert Garcia will have him bring a smarter fight. We’ll be able to adjust and do what we have to do to win this one.
“I have to make some little changes. There will be adjustments. We have to be prepared to box. I’ll listen to what my dad tells me to do. We’ll know early and take it from there. I know how to fight different styles, but brawling is what the fans love. I’m going to do that while still being smart in the ring.
“This fight is dedicated to my dad as he battles cancer. The only way I can pay him back or try to lift his spirits is to train hard in the gym and give him this win. If he sees me not giving up, I think it will give him the courage to keep fighting his battle.
Santa Cruz also revealed how inspired he was by the support of his fans after losing to Carl Frampton: “It was hard after the loss to Carl Frampton. I got a lot of fan support that inspired me to get back to training and win my title in the rematch. My plan was to retire undefeated, but at the end of the day, the loss means nothing. As long as I give the fans great fights, that’s all that matters.”
Jose Santa Cruz, Leo’s father and trainer, is unfortunately facing the biggest fight of his life but unlike his son it is not against another man but something more fearsome, Cancer. But Jose knows his son better than anyone and believes he has the mental and physical strength to prevail once again in the rematch.
“My fight with cancer is the toughest one of all. But I’m fighting very hard and I’m not going anywhere. I’m right there by Leo’s side all the way for this fight,” said Santa Cruz Snr.
“For the first fight for Frampton, I had to try to prepare Leo from a distance. This fight is different because I’m right there every step of the way. I’m telling him what to do and guide him every day.
“I think Leo is even more prepared this time than for the first fight with Mares. Leo is doing great mentally because he’s such a brave kid. I tell him not to worry about me and to keep working hard. He seems really motivated right now. He knows he’s doing well.
“Right now we’re working on maintaining speed, being smart and not looking for too much of a clash of a fight. I know Leo can win with his speed and his brain. He’s learning and growing as a fighter. I think Mares has reached his peak. Robert Garcia is a great trainer, but at a certain point, there’s nothing the fighter can do to surprise anyone.”