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Prizefight Preview: Mares vs. Santa Cruz

Photo: Suzanne Teresa/Premier Boxing Champions

Photo: Suzanne Teresa/Premier Boxing Champions

Welcome back to the Prizefight Preview!

This Saturday night, our good friends at the PBC will bring us more #freeboxing4all, as the ESPN network invades the Staples Center in LA for a highly anticipated fight card. In the main event, former world champions Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz finally lock horns in what promises to be an all-action affair between two of the most gifted and talented little men in the sport.

Over the past few years, both Santa Cruz and Mares have slowly developed their own cult followings, in the time-honored tradition of the great Mexican/Mexican-American prizefighters that came before them. And in honor of that great tradition, it is complete and utter taboo for any true fan to not pick sides. Lets face it: you were an Oscar Guy, or a Fernando Guy. You were Team Tapia, or Team Ayala. You were pullin’ for El Terrible, or screamin’ for The Baby Faced Assassin. Maybe, against other opponents, you could claim fandom for both sides; but when the arch rival was on the schedule, lines were drawn, family and friends were divided, and sides were taken.

The glorious tradition returns this Saturday night.

Abner Mares 2

So before the first bell rings, you better have made up your mind! Are you a fan of Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KO’s), the rapid-fire, high-volume, all-action, multi-division, multi-hyphenated superstar? Do you believe his punch output and accurate combinations will be the difference when the scorecards get tallied?

Or are you a fan of Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KO’s), the three-time world champion with an aggressive demeanor & dynamite hook? Do you think his thudding power shots will ultimately wear down his opponent en route to a sensational victory?

In situations like this, where we have a 50/50 battle between apex athletes, I like to turn to the history books to find a similar style matchup, with similar stakes, in a similar weight neighborhood.

When I opened the ole’ boxing book on this occasion, one particular battle jumped off the page: the 1997 all-Albuquerque showdown between fellow junior bantamweight world champs Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero.

In that memorable encounter, it was Tapia’s boxer-puncher style that won the night, as he out-hustled his stronger/slower opponent in order to win nearly every round in the first half of the match. A late rally by Romero simply wasn’t enough to make up for the early deficit, and Tapia was crowned King of New Mexico, as well as the unified 115 pound world champion.

Leo Santa Cruz vs Jose Cayetano

I see a similar style clash upon us this Saturday night, as Santa Cruz will look to play the Tapia role and outwork his opponent on the inside and outside, utilizing quick combinations to the head and body in order to pile up the points from the get-go. If Mares is looking to avoid the Romero role, he will have to consciously get the engine running early and find his punching range, cutting off the ring and trapping the (allegedly) leaner and weaker foe in the corner to inflict damage with heavy artillery.

Ultimately, most high-level bouts of is nature go the 12 round distance, and I have a hard time picking against a volume puncher like Santa Cruz, who is always in great shape and always comes to fight. Expect a competitive battle, with Santa Cruz’ hand being raised after a hard-fought decision victory.

Then again…I AM on Team Santa Cruz….so….take it with a grain of salt. 🙂

PREDICTION: Leo Santa Cruz by split decision


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