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This week in boxing history, PBC highlights two of our own champions, honors two Fights of the Year, recaps the final chapter of a four-fight rivalry and celebrates a four-division world champion.
Leo Santa Cruz’s aggressive, high-volume punching style helped him win his first three world championships. He won a fourth Saturday night by turning from brawler to boxer.
After their epic 12-round battle of last year, it would be unfair to expect Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz to produce even greater action in their 126-pound world title rematch. But that’s very well what could unfold.
WIN vs Carl Frampton
Jan 28, 2017 • MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Carl Frampton LOSES to Leo Santa Cruz by MD in Round 12 of 12
Loss vs Carl Frampton
Jul 30, 2016 • Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Leo Santa Cruz LOSES to Carl Frampton by MD in Round 12 of 12
Win vs Kiko Martinez
Feb 27, 2016 • Honda Center, Anaheim, California
Leo Santa Cruz WINS against Kiko Martinez by TKO in Round 5 of 12
Win vs Abner Mares
Aug 29, 2015 • Staples Center, Los Angeles
Leo Santa Cruz WINS against Abner Mares by MD in Round 12 of 12
Win vs Julio Valadez 3-7-1
Nov 03, 2009 • Commerce Casino, Commerce, California, USA
Leo Santa Cruz WINS against Julio Valadez by KO in Round 1 of 6
Win vs Joseph Rios 2-0-0
Oct 05, 2007 • Cliff Castle Casino, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA
Leo Santa Cruz WINS against Joseph Rios by UD in Round 4 of 4
Soft-spoken, thin and possessing a boyish smile, Leo Santa Cruz doesn’t appear to be a dangerous man. But much like his nickname “El Terremoto,” which means “the earthquake,” Santa Cruz shakes up his opponents with a seemingly endless torrent of pinpoint-accurate body punches, having earned world titles in three weight classes. After losing his championship status in 2016, the Mexican-American California native has now reclaimed his 126-pound world title.
Boxing in the blood
As the youngest of Jose Santa Cruz’s four sons, Leodegario Santa Cruz had almost no choice but to give boxing a try.
While most of his family was born in Mexico, Leo Santa Cruz was born and raised in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Jose Santa Cruz exposed all of his sons to boxing—Armando Santa Cruz is a former world title contender at 135 pounds—but Leo shined especially bright from an early age, winning a world amateur championship at 15 years old.
After nearly 150 amateur victories, Santa Cruz made his pro debut in October 2006, with a second-round knockout of Pedro Silva in Nogales, Arizona, just two months after his 18th birthday.
Bringing the noise at 118
Santa Cruz went 10-0-1 in his first 11 fights, but registered just two knockouts as he began his ascent in the 118-pound division.
He flexed his power over the next four fights, however, stopping all four opponents within four rounds, and earning a matchup in March 2011 with Stephane Jamoye, who had an impressive 20-2 record. Santa Cruz gained a sixth-round stoppage in exciting fashion, thrilling the crowd in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.
He followed that victory with stoppages of formidable opponents such as Jose Lopez, Everth Briceno and Alejandro Hernandez to earn his first shot at a world championship.
In June 2012, Santa Cruz took on South African veteran Vusi Malinga for the vacated 118-pound world title. The 23-year-old Mexican native dominated his older opponent for 12 rounds, gaining a near shutout on the judges’ scorecards to take a unanimous decision.
Santa Cruz then defended his title three times in a four-month period that same year with stoppages of Eric Morel and Victor Zaleta, and a one-sided decision over Alberto Guevara.
Conquering another division
In 2013, it was time to take a step up in weight. Santa Cruz vacated his title and made his 122-pound debut that May with a fifth-round stoppage of Alexander Munoz.
That win earned him a shot against 122-pound world champion Victor Terrazas in Carson, California, in August 2013, and Santa Cruz made the most of it.
Santa Cruz battered his countryman’s right eye and knocked him to the canvas twice as he threw 267 punches in less than eight minutes to gain a third-round KO, answering any questions about his power at that weight.
With his father and his older brother Antonio overseeing his training, Santa Cruz cemented his standing atop the 122-pound division, winning wide decisions over Cesar Seda in December 2013 and Cristian Mijares in March 2014 in defense on his title.
Time for another challenge
Fighting in a high-profile slot on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Marcos Maidana card in Las Vegas in September 2014, Santa Cruz again flashed his brilliance as he scored a second-round TKO of Manuel Roman with a vicious left jab-right hook combo.
After that fight, when answering questions about his next move, Santa Cruz said through a big grin, “I’m not scared of anyone.”
In January 2015, Santa Cruz gained an eighth-round TKO of Jesus Ruiz in Las Vegas to defend his title for the fourth time, and soon afterward announced his desire to move up to yet another weight division.
Fighting as part of the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view in May 2015, Santa Cruz won his 126-pound debut with a 10-round unanimous decision over Jose Cayetano. That victory set up a long-anticipated showdown in August with three-division champion Abner Mares in Los Angeles.