Leo Santa Cruz: Carl Frampton loss hit me hard

Scott Hirano

Leo Santa Cruz has the opportunity to defeat yet another world champion when the talented Californian battles old rival Abner Mares on June 9.

The return is three years in the making after the pair shared an absorbing twelve rounds in 2015 and Santa Cruz is expecting a different kind of Mares following his previous victory.

“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,” said Santa Cruz.

“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.”

Ask about his relationship with father Jose, who is back in the corner for his second collision with Mares, Santa Cruz added: “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.”

With just one defeat on his record, Santa Cruz is considered one of the stars of the lower divisions, having beaten every fighter he ever faced in the ring.

On his revenge win over Carl Frampton, Santa Cruz admitted losing his ‘0’ was hard to take at first.

“It was hard after the loss to 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,” said Santa Cruz.

Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by Ringstar Sports and TGB Promotions, begin at $50, plus applicable fees, and are on sale today at 12:00 p.m. PT. To purchase tickets visit AXS.com