LA has historically been the hotspot for slugfests between legendary local Mexican-American fighters—setting the scene for next month's anticipated rematch between featherweight champions Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares.
LOS ANGELES — The first Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares clash, a candidate for "Fight of the Year" in 2015, was a hard fought crosstown Los Angeles battle for supremacy in the featherweight division won by Santa Cruz via a 12-round majority decision at STAPLES Center on August 29.
This Southern California natural hometown bash produced a strong live gate to go along with a peak of 1.641 million viewers on ESPN, their strongest numbers since 1998. The fierce, bloody war left Mares unfulfilled until their long-awaited rematch could be finally realized three years later. The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast on Saturday, June 9 is approaching as we await the exciting, high-voltage return of Santa Cruz vs. Mares.
Historically, Los Angeles has been the hotspot for slugfests between legendary local Mexican-American fighters. Known for their big hearts in the ring, Mexican-American boxers have electrified fans with their explosiveness and courage. When you mix in the fact that Southland boxing fans are loyal to the end, you have the ingredients for the much anticipated barnburner between Los Angeles-based rivals, Santa Cruz vs. Mares.
The rematch is bound to instill and bolster Mexican national pride in the hearts of the growing Southland Latino boxing community. STAPLES Center will surely be divided equally between those rooting for either Santa Cruz or Mares. With this fight just over a week away, we look back to similar exciting bouts between popular Los Angeles fighters.
A strong bitterness carried over from many years earlier was in full force during the pre-fight build up between former sparring partners and former world champions Mando Ramos and Raul Rojas. These Harbor-area fighters openly played mind-games with each other and tossed hateful personal insults back-and-forth in order to gain a psychological edge. In this crucial crossroads fight for both, Ramos, of Long Beach, was led to believe that San Pedro's Rojas was not in shape. Ramos proceeded to take it easy and coasted during training camp. When word got out that Rojas was in top-form, it occurred to Ramos that he'd been had. Still, Ramos mustered enough salvo to knockout Rojas in six rounds on December 10, 1970 at the Olympic Auditorium.
Ramos helped write another chapter of boxing history in the area as the long-awaited grudge match between two popular Chicano icons, Ramos and Ruben Navarro, also pitted the neighborhoods of Harbor vs. Maravilla against each other. The two fighters, who had been mouthing off to one another for three years, finally agreed to meet in the ring to claim exclusive bragging rights for the title of "best lightweight in town." Former world lightweight champion Ramos pulled off a close 10-round unanimous decision over top-contender Navarro, "The Maravilla Kid" of East L.A., at the Olympic Auditorium on September 30, 1971.
“ Los Angeles, one of the world's greatest boxing cities, has probably developed more sensational box-office attractions than any other city. ” Hap Navarro, Hollywood Legion Stadium matchmaker, 1948-1955
In one of the most anticipated dream matches in Los Angeles boxing history, "Schoolboy" Bobby Chacon, of Sylmar, knocked out Danny "Little Red" Lopez, of Alhambra, in the ninth round to win the mythical "City Featherweight Championship." Chacon was in his wheelhouse all night long, rocking Lopez repeatedly with his right hand throughout the fight. This clash of local rising stars in the featherweight division, promoted by Aileen Eaton and the Olympic Boxing Club, occurred in front of a sold-out crowd of 16,027 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on May 24, 1974. The fight produced so much interest that another 2,671 fans watched on closed-circuit TV at the Olympic Auditorium, located on the corner of 18th & Grand in downtown Los Angeles. Steve Springer of the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1995 about the fight as a measuring stick for boxing fan passion in the area, saying "you would have to go back to Chacon-Lopez to find such excitement for a pair of Los Angeles fighters."
It was the first time in boxing history that two college graduates fought for the world title when WBC welterweight champion Carlos Palomino, of Westminster, successfully defended his title against Armando Muniz, of Montebello, by 15th-round TKO at the Olympic Auditorium on January 21, 1977. Many local boxing writers called this knockdown, drag-out war, the "Fight of the Year", and in the rematch held May 27, 1978 at the same venue, Palomino once again stopped Muniz, this time by 15-round unanimous decision.
Santa Cruz and Mares grew up together on the same Southern California boxing scene. Both appeared on many of the same boxing cards, and Santa Cruz even picked up an IBF bantamweight belt vacated by Mares. Now, for these two Mexican warriors with almost identical boxing statistics, the road to greatness leads them both once more to STAPLES Center for surely another sensational ring-war.
Come fight night on June 9, 2018, the boxing world will be treated to another classic Los Angeles slugfest between two certified Mexican warriors. This bout truly promises to be the next chapter written in the long history of exciting Los Angeles crosstown battles. Nearly three years in the making, anticipation will be high and a screaming audience again on their feet, as they witness Mares' quest for redemption in his rematch with Santa Cruz. As popular and well-liked as these two hometown heroes are in the Southland boxing community; there will be only one fighter who will walk out of STAPLES Center with his hands raised tall. May the best man win.
Gene Aguilera, author of Latino Boxing in Southern California (2018) and Mexican American Boxing in Los Angeles (2014), Arcadia Publishing. Aguilera has been inducted into the WBC Legends of Boxing Museum, National Boxing Hall of Fame, and his 2014 release was chosen as "Book of the Year" by the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame.