Despite big payday, Leo Santa Cruz has no intention of living the life of luxury

Leo Santa Cruz is shaking us awake from our caviar dreams.

Leo Santa Cruz

Leo Santa Cruz is capping his big win over Abner Mares with some not-so-big spending. (Suzanne Teresa/Premier Boxing Champions)

The Rolls-Royce dealer is all sad and angry, won’t even make eye contact; the jeweler is polishing his wares in tears of bitterness and frustration.

Neither is getting any of Leo Santa Cruz’s money, nor are we able to vicariously live the high life through a 27-year-old, self-made millionaire who’s the toast of boxing after his rousing victory over Abner Mares on Saturday night.

It’s three days after the biggest win of Santa Cruz’s career, one in which he earned his third world title in as many weight classes, as well as a seven-figure paycheck.

So, Leo, how are going to blow some of that cash?

You’re an avid fisherman. Perhaps a sweet new Boston Whaler?

“No new boat,” he says.

OK, well, how about a trip to an exotic locale, some Olive Garden-swanky place where the beer flows like wine and every last hotel room has free HBO?

“I haven’t really been on a vacation,” he says, not really sounding like the streak will end any time soon. “If I go, I definitely want to go to Cancun.”

Big "if," there.

C’mon, man, you have to splurge a little, right?

“I buy what I need for the family, stuff like that,” he explains with fun-murdering levels of responsibility. “You know some people, they buy big chains, diamonds. Me, I don’t do anything like that.”

And with that, the talk turns to rental properties.

That’s right: Leo Santa Cruz has his sights set on becoming a landlord.

He’s a pragmatic dude, and having just earned serious bank, he’s looking to spend it in a way that earns him a nice return.

“The only thing I want to do is to get a house or an apartment so I could have some income, like an investment for the future,” he says, “so when I retire from boxing, I can have something to get money from.”

Money won’t be an issue for Santa Cruz any time soon if he continues fighting like did against Mares.

If Santa Cruz is level-headed with his finances, he proved himself to be doubly so inside the ring Saturday.

From the opening bell, Mares did his best to overwhelm Santa Cruz like a one-man blanket party, his fists delivered with the steady, motoric repetition of pistons firing in their cylinders.

It worked for a round or two, as Mares built an early lead through the sheer, unrelenting intensity of his attack.

But through it all, Santa Cruz kept his cool, weathered Mares’ storm, and patiently began working his jab to set up powerful right hands that broke the fight—and Mares’ face—wide open.

Despite being the highlight of his career thus far, Santa Cruz still hasn’t watched tape of the fight—he seldom does with any of his bouts.

“I don’t really watch them. I feel kind of embarrassed. I don’t know why,” he says. “I’ll probably watch it on my own—but not with somebody else.

“I still can’t picture that I won,” he continues. "It feels like I haven’t fought yet, like I’m still waiting. But I’m very happy.”

If Santa Cruz can appreciate the situation he’s now in, it’s likely underscored by the reality that he grew up with none of the security that he’s since provided for himself and his family.

One gets the sense that his past still lingers in the back of his mind.

“If I wouldn’t have made it, all of us probably would have been the same as before, living on minimum wage and stuff like that,” he says. “We really suffered. We didn’t have much to eat, we took the bus. Looking back on it, I’m still the same person. Nothing changes.”

Maybe so, but certainly the perception of Santa Cruz has changed since defeating Mares.

Prior to this fight, Santa Cruz had notched some impressive victories over such former champs as Cristian Mijares and Eric Morel. But his last few scraps prior to Mares had been against solid, but less-than-spectacular, opponents. He had yet to put together a signature victory against a top-flight opponent in his prime like he did Saturday.

Now, the boxing public is seeing Santa Cruz as he’s long seen himself.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to be,” he says, “like the great Mexican fighters who gave great fights and who people loved.

“I’m becoming that,” he adds. “I’m ready.”

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