Santa Cruz dedicates Mares rematch to father battling cancer

Scott Hirano

Leo Santa Cruz expects a tougher test from Abner Mares the second time around as the pair prepare lock horns three years on from their initial meeting.

Santa Cruz puts his WBA featherweight belt on the line against ‘regular’ champion Mares at the Staples Center on June 9 and says he’s fighting for his father Jose who is still battling cancer.

“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,” said Santa Cruz.

“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.

“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.”

Father Jose added: “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.

“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,” he added.