Santa Cruz could stoke Rigondeaux bout with a strong outing

Photo Credits: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

Photo Credits: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME


Leo Santa Cruz, 28-0-1 (16), could take a struggle from Guillermo Rigondeaux, 15-0 (10), in “Rigo’s” last bout, mix it with a strong showing in his own next fight on Jan. 17 and perhaps have the ingredients for a blockbuster battle in the 122-pound division.


Santa Cruz will battle Jesus Ruiz, 33-5-5 (22), in a bout most expect him to win on the undercard of a heavyweight title bout between WBC beltholder Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.


The junior featherweight division boasts three champions in unbeaten IBF champion Carl Frampton, WBC champion Santa Cruz and WBA, RING and WBO king Rigondeaux.


Despite the division boasting three fighters who hold legitimate world title belts, the general consensus among boxing fans is that Cuban-born, Miami-based Rigondeaux is the best of the lot. For that matter, based on pure boxing skills, many consider him one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.


However, in his last fight, Rigondeaux almost looked human in the seventh round when he got deposited on the canvas twice against Hisashi Amagasa in Japan. While he would go on to stop his gritty challenger, he did have a much tougher outing than expected.


One of the biggest roadblocks that appeared to be stopping unification bouts between Rigondeaux and other champions in the division was the fact that Guillermo was simply too good. And he was not that well-known outside of hardcore fight fans. Plus at times, his defensive style, while outstanding from a pure boxing standpoint, was considered a little dull and a tough sell. In short, it was a high-risk/low-reward scenario in a fight with “El Chacal.”


However, seeing Rigondeaux get dropped may just be the carrot that entices the other champions’ promoters to take the risk against him. Frampton promoter (and former world featherweight champion) Barry McGuigan has made it clear he has little interest in a Rigondeaux bout for his charge.


That said, Santa Cruz has been quite vocal about wanting to be considered the best in the division and he seems more than willing to face Rigondeaux to prove it. In recent interviews, Santa Cruz has claimed he is the best fighter at the weight and is keen to set up a unification bout with Rigondeaux.


Hearing this, Rigondeaux was quick to respond in the media saying recently, “After that fight [Santa Cruz/Ruiz], if he wants, I want him to fight me. I’m the best at this weight and I want to prove it once again by fighting anyone says they are better than me.”


Santa Cruz would be in a great position after this fight (if he looks good) to be in the ring with Rigondeaux before the year is out. And that would be just fine with him.


In a recent interview, he stated he wants to “put on a great show” on the 17th. He is also hoping that if his mounting wins don’t lead to a Rigondeaux bout, they may entice Frampton or Scott Quigg, both unbeaten, into the ring. “I feel great about my upcoming fight with Ruiz,” said Santa Cruz. “He is a strong fighter, the kind of opponent I want to fight.”


Santa Cruz is focused on his next bout and he should be because all unification talks come to a halt if he loses. Challenger Ruiz knows this is the opportunity of a lifetime and he plans on taking advantage of it.


Ruiz said of his opportunity, “I know many believe I have no chance but I am well-prepared and ready to give my all. I am ready for war and ready to leave it all in the ring like a true Mexican warrior.”


Some might say this sounds like a fighter grateful for the opportunity and looking to put on a good show as much as anything. But Santa Cruz can’t sleep on his game challenger because Ruiz is well aware that his whole bank balance changes with a win over “Teremoto,” one of boxing’s most popular and exciting fighters.


So while Santa Cruz-Ruiz bout isn’t the bout people are clamouring for at 122-pounds, a win for Leo could very well lead directly to those bouts.


Frampton is looking to take all the marbles home to the United Kingdom while Santa Cruz is looking to do Mexico proud. And Rigondeaux is looking to represent Cuba as the best in the business.


Something tells me this all-world action is heating up in the super bantamweight division. This could see fight fans enjoying some serious 122-pound unification action in 2015.



Weekend update


* World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman recently commented on the possible super-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, “I hope Mayweather-Pacquiao can happen. We understand it’s a business. Personally I feel that egos are the strongest obstacle for the fight. It’s a necessary fight, which should be done soon because the fans may get tired of waiting.”


* Good to hear that “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali, has returned home this past week after his release from hospital after battling a urinary tract infection. Ali was in hospital for almost three weeks. Ali spokesman Bob Gunnell said, “He’s in great spirits and is enjoying being back home. He’s back in his daily routine.”


* Jay Z and Roc Nation Sports recently made an offer of 40 million dollars over five years to Adrien Broner who responded (in a less than classy manner) that the offer was “an insult.” He has since apologized for his off-color comments.


WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward who inked a new promotional pact with Roc Nation Sports (after sitting out all of 2014 over a contractual dispute with Goossen Promotions), said he was “blown away by their passion and hunger.”


* Golden Boy Promotions has also reportedly reached an undisclosed settlement with former CEO Richard Schaefer. Schaefer left the company last summer after ongoing dissention with President Oscar De La Hoya.


* In Nashville all this week, so I had to go with Vince Gill’s “Guitar Slinger” as my writing soundtrack.


In his latest attempt to sway Floyd Mayweather Jr. into the ring, England’s Amir Khan said he’ll give Floyd “five days to decide if he wants to fight me.” He says, if not, he will then look at a bout with Manny Pacquiao.


The Nevada State Athletic Commission has changed the result of last September’s WBA interim heavyweight title tilt between Luis Ortiz and Lateef Kayode to a “no decision.” Ortiz had originally scored a first round TKO in the bout but tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone after the fight. With the result changed, he will certainly lose his claim to the WBA’s interim belt.



Questions and comments can be sent to Bill Tibbs at and you can follow him at

Santa Cruz Workout

Steve Kim w/Santa Cruz



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