A rematch at Staples Center between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares
On Sunday afternoon before I penned my latest for this fine website, I asked a simple and direct question on Twitter: “Which fight are you more interested in next Saturday night: LSC-Mares II or Horn-Crawford?”
And to my surprise, the majority of the responses I received within the first half-hour stated their preference for the bout in Las Vegas, which is being streamed on ESPN+, over the rematch at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which is being broadcast by Showtime.
(Admittedly this isn’t exactly the Gallup Poll, or the most scientific way of collecting opinions, but the early returns did surprise me, nonetheless.)
It says here that while the first installment of Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares, back in the summer of 2015, wasn’t a great fight, as some Premier Boxing Champions pom pom wavers tried to tell us, it was a pretty good one. If they fought a hundred times, you’d probably get a hundred pretty good-to-very good fights, while Jeff Horn-Terence Crawford seems to be a pretty lopsided affair that sways heavily in the favor of Crawford, who is attempting to win the WBO welterweight title.
But many are intrigued by the fact that Crawford is making his debut at 147 pounds and is facing a big, strong, rugged, rough-housing welterweight. “Bud” is certainly one of the premier prizefighters in the sport but he is facing perhaps the least heralded of the current welterweight beltholders. My friend “JP” (who knows all these things strictly for “entertainment purposes”) tells me Crawford opened as a 16-to-1 favorite but all the money (perhaps from Down Under) has now made it 8-to-1. He opined to me, “Horn has zero shot.
As for Santa Cruz-Mares II, it “strangely has no odds yet. A fight garnering almost no interest for the bookies,” said JP.
So why isn’t there more interest in this fight between two Top 5-ish featherweights squaring off in Los Angeles? Truthfully while the first match-up was a good one, there wasn’t all that much clamoring for a sequel, especially with many other featherweights to choose from. Since defeating his crosstown rival in 2015, the WBA champion Santa Cruz defeated the faded Kiko Martinez and then had a memorable two-bout set with Carl Frampton (splitting a pair of fights), while Mares took over a year off from their initial encounter before defeating Jesus Cuellar for a version of the WBA featherweight title in December of 2016.
This rematch was supposed to take place last October but instead as Santa Cruz and his father balked at the timing of this fight and requested a tune-up bout of sorts, he faced Chris Avalos (stopping him in eight), while Mares took on Andres Gutierrez and won a 10-round technical decision. These bouts – televised on FOX – took place at the StubHub Center. And as the second chapter to Santa Cruz-Mares was announced, a few months ago, I got this email from “email@example.com,” who brought up this point:
“So Leo Santa Cruz fought in January 2017 and then took nine months off. So him and his dad said he needed a ‘tune up’ fight in October 2017, instead of fighting Abner Mares at that time. What happens after that tune up? The Mares fight isn’t scheduled for another eight months (June 2018). So much for a tune-up to stay active.
“Other than when returning from a major surgery, I don’t get all of these tune-up fights. Isn’t that what training camp and sparring is for?”
Y’ know, I can’t argue with any of this and those bouts in October didn’t exactly whet the appetite for this upcoming bout. There is a certain apathy for this rematch. Perhaps they waited too long to pull the trigger?
To this Richard Schaefer, the head of Ringstar Sports (who is promoting this event), countered, “Well, there are certain rematches or fights you can get done right away and others you have to wait a little bit. This is one of the others. Might have it been bigger a year or so? I don’t know. Both guys have rested their bodies; both guys are at their peak. I think both guys, frankly, needed to reload a little bit.”
Schaefer believes Mares is a rejuvenated fighter under the tutelage of trainer Robert Garcia. “I would have to go back to the bantamweight tournament to see Abner as confident as he is today,” he stated, adding, “It took some time to get adjusted to Robert Garcia and the way they mesh. I see it when I see him sparring at the Garcia gym in Riverside. So you’ll see Mares better than he has been.”
But there remains a question of Mares: Is he a full-fledged featherweight? It was very evident that Santa Cruz had the size advantage, back in their first hook-up. Can he make any significant improvement or adjustment to swing the tide from their last meeting?
There was another factor for this rematch being delayed, according to Schaefer.
“One of the reasons why the fight didn’t happen is because Leo’s father had all these issues with cancer, as we all know,” he stated. “When I saw him at the last fight, when Leo fought at the Staples Center, he was in a wheelchair. He was weak; he could barely walk. He was in a tremendous amount of pain and to see Leo’s father, when (Santa Cruz) had the open workout, to be in absolute perfect shape, joking around, walking around like before, telling me that he has no pain any more, that he’s KO’d cancer.
“To see Leo’s father like that, you can see – and I talked to Leo about it – the weight lifted off Leo’s shoulders and it’s a different Leo because he has a strong father in his corner and that’s when Leo had his best fights.”
So while some might say better late than never, Schaefer (who certainly has a vested interest in this) believes it’s best now.
”When you look at these two set-ups, in this particular case, honestly, the timing couldn’t be better.”
WBA lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and manager Egis Klimas joined Mario Lopez and me in-studio, this past Friday, for the latest edition of “The 3 Knockdown Rule.”
WBO middleweight beltholder Billy Joe Saunders has dropped out of his June 23 bout against Martin Murray. Hmmmmm, that’s interesting…Look for newly crowned WBO 122-pound titlist Isaac Dogboe to return to the ring on August 18 or the 25th, on an ESPN show…So who out there has ESPN+?…Jaron Ennis, who blew out Mike Arnaoutis in two rounds on Friday night, looks like he’ll be on ShoBox in July…This Wednesday night, the “Hollywood Fight Club,” from 360 Promotions, returns to the Avalon…Seriously, womens college softball is pretty entertaining. The pace of play is much better than baseball…When does “Insecure” return on HBO? Hopefully before it airs its next fight card…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.