Featherweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz and four-time world champion Abner Mares went face-to-face at the final press conference Thursday, two days before they enter the ring for their highly-anticipated rematch this Saturday, June 9 from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
Also squaring-off at the final press conference were super welterweight world champion Jermell Charlo and former world champion Austin Trout, who step into the ring on the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast that begins at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed in the West Coast).
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by Ringstar Sports and TGB Promotions, begin at $50, plus applicable fees, and are on sale now. To purchase tickets visit AXS.com or click HERE.
Here is what the press conference participants had to say Thursday from the Chick Hearn Press Room at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles:
LEO SANTA CRUZ
“The first fight was a really good one, but I think this one will be even better. Mares is a great fighter with a great trainer in Robert Garcia, and that’s the kind of challenge I want. We both want to give the fans great fights.
“I’ve learned a lot from my last few fights. I’m not coming in here worried about losing, I just worry about giving the fans a great show. If Mares is better than me that night, then he will win. But I’ve worked too hard and I’m going to be at my peak on Saturday night.
“I think that Mares has gotten a lot better. Robert Garcia is a trainer who has brought him up to a different level. He’s made a lot of improvements. I learned from the Frampton fights and my dad is a good trainer too. It’s even all the way around and it’s going to be a great fight.
“I think the winner of this fight will be number one in this division. Gary Russell Jr. is a great fighter and I definitely want a rematch of our amateur fight. But me and Abner put a lot of pressure on our opponents and I don’t think Gary would like the pressure from either of us.
“My team motivates me every day in the gym. They’re right next to me running every day towards the same goal. That’s what I love about training camp because it makes me work even harder.”
“I could stand up here and tell you what I’m going to do Saturday, but you’ve seen the first fight. You know how exciting the first fight was. I have even more to prove and I’m going to leave it all on the line this time.
“This is going to be an exciting fight. I know Leo has matured as an athlete and fighter by fighting Frampton twice. But if you look at my last couple of performances, they speak for themselves. I think both of us are seasoned and better fighters right now.
“There’s no doubt that the winner of this fight is number one in this division. There’s some great fighters at featherweight, but we’re fighting for the top spot in this division.
“Our focus isn’t on looking for a stoppage. That was my mistake the first fight. I tried to destroy him. I’m going to follow instructions and show I’m the better fighter in there.
“If I win Saturday night, and the fight is just as exciting as the first one, I’m ready for a trilogy. Let’s make it happen.
“I’m going to fight my heart out and win this fight this time. May the best man win. We’re going to give the fans what they want to see. I’m calling this ‘Fight of the Year’ guaranteed.”
“My brother and I have been doing this a long time. Austin Trout has done it a long time as well. I’m hoping everyone gets there early, because I’m bringing excitement to the table right from the start.
“Some critics say that me and my brother haven’t fought the people required to be on the pound-for-pound list. My race to the top continues Saturday night to prove all those people wrong.
“A knockout is possible. If he wants that to be the way it goes, then I’m capable. Derrick and I have a great plan that we’re ready to use. None of our experience in the past matters, we’re both 0-0. Anything can happen on Saturday night.
“I look to do what my brother did against Trout, but way better. If that’s with a knockout or just picking him apart, I’m ready. I’m fighting for a lot more than just a win on Saturday. We’re going to keep shining and do what we have to do.
“We want everyone to know that my brother and I come from the trenches. We made it this far, so we’re not stopping now. Nobody is standing in my way. I know Trout wants a belt, but this is the wrong belt to go after.
“I have to deal with Austin Trout. Jarrett Hurd is not my focus right now. I definitely want to unify titles soon and I hope he comes out ringside on Saturday night so I can look at him after this fight. Everyone knows what time it is.”
“I’m very excited to be here and have another once in a lifetime opportunity. I believe this is destiny. I’m coming into the lion’s den and I’m going to come out unscathed.
“As great as my win against Miguel Cotto was, I don’t think it compares to this fight here. People complained about Cotto being old after I beat him, but with Jermell, there’s no excuse you can make up. He’s an undefeated world champion, so if I get the win, this is definitely bigger than Cotto.
“I don’t think he’s overlooking me because I bet his brother told him not to sleep on Trout. Everyone’s going to see what I’ve been saying on Saturday night.
“My training camp with Barry Hunter was fantastic. We got all the work in that I needed and Barry is someone who always pushes me to be better than I believe I’m capable of.
“I learned from my mistakes when I fought the bigger brother. I’m going to be even better on Saturday and it’s going to be a totally different result.
“For everyone sleeping on me, you better wake up. It’s going to be an awakening on Saturday night.”
JOSE SANTA CRUZ, Santa Cruz’s Father & Trainer
“Now all there is left to do is wait for fight night. The work up to this point has been done and it has been done well. We are ready to do what needs to be done when the time comes.
“Usually at this point ahead of a fight the biggest feat is to make weight but he had no problem there. Leo was on target weight about a month ago so it’s not something we’re worried about at this point. He’s eating good and maintaining weight well and feeling really strong for this fight.
“Leo is in incredible shape and I am confident he will win on Saturday. I’m sure Abner and his team are going to bring their best and we’re bringing our best too, but on fight night there will only be two who will clash. We’re ready for war.”
ROBERT GARCIA, Mares’ Trainer
“Just the fact that Abner is in my training camp and we communicate so well, it’s given me a lot of confidence. Everyone has done a great job doing their part in camp and I believe we’ve worked on all the tools we need to defeat Leo Santa Cruz.
“Leo is a great fighter but Abner knows he can win this fight. The confidence he’s gained, and how much more seasoned Abner looks since joining my camp, should translate to a strong performance Saturday.
“This has been a really smooth training camp and that’s exactly what Abner needed. We’re primed for a big victory.”
DERRICK JAMES, Charlo’s Trainer
“I think that Jermell has shown a great level of maturity while also being an aggressive fighter. He’s also very positive about what he wants to do every day in camp, and in the ring on Saturday.
“Being able to spar with Errol Spence Jr. every day in camp has definitely helped Jermell. They say it all the time, but iron sharpens iron and that’s the mentality we have to help both guys improve and get to where we know they can get to.
“Austin is a crafty fighter who has a lot of experience and a lot of tools. The most important thing though is that we’re focused on getting Jermell to be the best version of himself on Saturday night.”
RICHARD SCHAEFER, Chairman & CEO of Ringstar Sports
“Finally the wait is over. We waited three years for this rematch. Everyone asked me when this fight was going to happen. Now there’s just two days to go.
“You know it’s a big fight when you have the fight here at the premier venue in Los Angeles, STAPLES Center. These fighters here deserve it, because they are the best fighters in the sport, regardless of division. They’re going to show everyone on Saturday night why we love boxing so much.
“Each of these fights could have been a main event in its own right. I’m glad that these fighters were okay all being together on an event that really elevates the sport of boxing.
“Jermell Charlo is a once-in-a-generation talent in this sport. He has all the skills you need, but also has that one thing that makes you a superstar. He has charisma, and you cannot learn that. However, anyone who is doubting Austin Trout, is making a big mistake. I have no doubt that he’ll be more than ready for this challenge.
“I’ve been fortunate to follow these main event fighters from their first fight, all the way to now, with them being multiple time world champions and fantastic men outside of the ring. Leo and Abner live the kind of lives that make this sport proud. But on Saturday night, may the best man win.
“SHOWTIME delivers week after week of the best fighting the best. This fight is no different and will be another treat for the fans watching on SHOWTIME who have come to expect these great matchups.”
STEPHEN ESPINOZA, President Sports & Events Programming, Showtime Network Inc.
“These four guys up here have been on SHOWTIME a combined 41 times. That’s a lot and it doesn’t happen by accident. The reason it happens is because these fighters embody everything we want SHOWTIME Boxing to be about. They have some of the strongest resumes in the sport. None of these guys have ever shied away from taking a tough fight. They don’t come with excuses, they want the best and biggest fights. We’ ae proud to have all four of them on SHOWTIME.
“Right now we have a matchup between two of the biggest stars and faces of Southern California boxing. The featherweight division has seen top five fighters on SHOWTIME already this year-This is a rematch between two more of the top 5. In the first fight, they threw a combined 2,000 punches, which I would bet will be matched again on Saturday.
“Austin Trout has been in there with the biggest and best stars in the sport of boxing. But Jermell has quite a bit of momentum. He has four consecutive stoppages, which is very impressive at the championship level. As everyone has said this is another main event quality matchup and I look forward to seeing it on Saturday night.”