Is Los Angeles big enough for both Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz?
Mares certainly doesn’t believe so, all but drawing a line in the dirt like a gunslinger in an old Western movie.
“We’re representing L.A., both feeling it’s our town,” said Mares, who was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, but grew up in the Hawaiian Gardens section of Los Angeles. “But I feel I’ve accomplished more than he has for the right to say it's my town.”
Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KOs) casts Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KOs) as an interloper entering their 126-pound clash of Angelenos on August 29 at Staples Center in Los Angeles (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
Their training camps are less than 30 minutes apart: Mares works out at Del Mares Gym in East L.A., while Santa Cruz has been preparing for the bout at Who's Next Boxing Academy in La Puente.
“The way I look and feel in training, he should be worried,” said Mares, a 29-year-old three-division champion. “It’s not anger, but an animal instinct and mentality to destroy him. I’m ready for war.”
Staples Center is befitting of the Mares-Santa Cruz crusade for L.A. bragging rights and supremacy. It was at Staples Center that Rafael Marquez’s second-round knockout of Israel Vazquez in May 2010 closed the book on a three-year, four-fight battle of Mexican legends. They ended with two wins apiece.
Mares was ringside at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in June 2002 for another battle of Mexicans when Marco Antonio Barrera unanimously decisioned Erik Morales, avenging an earlier loss before later winning their third bout.
But Mares dismissed the notion of his clash with Santa Cruz rivaling Marquez-Vasquez or Barrera-Morales. Instead, he’s planning a one-sided victory.
“I see myself winning easily,” Mares said. “To sell tickets and get people hyped, I shouldn’t say that. But I’m about the reality of it. It’s going to be Abner Mares by knockout, seventh round.”
Mares is seeking his fourth straight win since losing his 126-pound world title to Jhonny Gonzalez in a first-round KO in August 2013.
Santa Cruz, a world champion at 118 and 122 pounds, made his 126-pound debut in May, winning a 10-round unanimous decision over Jose Cayetano.
Former champion Eric Morel is a common opponent, losing a unanimous decision to Mares at 122 pounds in April 2012 before being stopped by Santa Cruz in the fifth round at 118 that September.
“I hurt and punished Eric Morel many times,” Mares said. “There is no doubt I took a lot out of him before he went down in weight and lost to Leo.”
Mares believes Santa Cruz, who grew up in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of L.A. but now lives in nearby Rosemead, is betting that Mares’ best days are behind him.
“I think in his mind, it’s the right time to fight me. I got knocked out two years ago. I’m done. I'm vulnerable,” Mares said. “But if he thinks that, he’s made a mistake by taking this fight.”
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