IBF Champ Defends on November 10th
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For boxing fans looking for a new champ to root for, meet Leo Santa Cruz.
The IBF Bantamweight Champion remains unbeaten with 21 victories and 12 knockouts. Signed by Golden Boy Promotions and advised by powerful boxing icon Al Haymon, this is one thrilling puncher to keep your eye on.
I had a chance to catch up with Leo, nicknamed “El Terremoto” (earthquake), at Tuesday’s press conference at the ESPN Zone at L.A. LIVE to announce the November 10 card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Santa Cruz will be featured on the undercard of the Abner Mares-Anselmo Moreno headliner and Alfredo Angulo-Raul Casarez co-main promoted by Golden Boy and airing live on Showtime.
As of yesterday, no opponent was officially named yet but an announcement will be made soon. This upcoming fight will keep Leo busy as it will be his fourth fight this year; November’s bout will be in defense of his IBF Bantamweight belt.
Santa Cruz may have flown under the radar for a while with the lower weight classes not always getting the public’s attention, but his last two fights changed everything, thrusting the 24-year-old into the limelight.
In his June match against Vusi Malinga, the action fighter impressed the crowd and the commentators with his performance that claimed the vacant IBF bantamweight title. And in a one-two punch of activity, Santa Cruz followed up that win with a stunning TKO win over Eric Morel (who quit on his stool) on September 15 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Being on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez-Josesito Lopez clash only enhanced Leo’s exposure in the boxing world.
Now come November 10, the Mexican-born warrior is poised to showcase his skills and gain even more fans.
The hardworking bantam says he’s ready for his chance to shine. A pro since 2006, the boxer has been patiently moving up in his division and working on his craft as a prizefighter. This year was his time–and chance–to see his hard work and dedication pay off.
“I think people really started noticing me after my last fight against Morel,” he said during his time at the podium. “I go places now and people recognize me more than ever before! This will be my first fight at Staples so it is very exciting for me–I hope a lot of people come out.”
Joining Team Santa Cruz were Leo’s father/trainer Jose Santa Cruz, his two brothers Antonio and Jose Armando Santa Cruz (former lightweight champ), strength and conditioning coach Danny Garcia, and team member Javier Adame.
Javier Adame says keep your eye on this kid. Leo trains at Adame’s Who’s Next Boxing Academy in La Puente and the gym owner has watched the young fighter rise this year. “Leo is ready to go, ready to shine,” Javier, also a cornerman/special advisor, tells me.
Fans have taken notice of this pressure fighter, saying he remind them of a young Antonio Margarito early in his career with his relentlessness and ferocity. Santa Cruz enters into “beast mode” in the ring but outside the ropes, the fans find a very likable down-to-earth guy with an upbeat personality, always smiling.
His team says the heavy hitter’s remained humble, even sharing his paychecks to take care of his family and not wasting money on fancy cars or jewelry.
“This kid is something else,” Adame agrees. “He is that rare breed who has a great family, is humble and hardworking, but turns into a ‘composed’ beast in the ring!”
Javier also says the timing has never been better for the camp. “Leo and his fiancee just had a baby girl this month–right before he left to Vegas for the Morel fight,” he explains. “I told him he’s really got to take care of business now that he has his own family.”
Leo is happy to be busy, happy to get these exciting opportunities to make a name in the ranks, immediately thanking Oscar De La Hoya, his promoter Golden Boy and Showtime for the chance. “It’s great to be fighting again so soon and I thank everyone involved for keeping me busy!” he said. “I’ve been training really hard and I’m getting better with each fight.”
With the impressive victory over former champ Eric Morel, Santa Cruz cemented his stance that he has arrived. Fighting at 118 right now, when he moves up there will be a talent-rich pool of challengers to face, further giving Leo his chance to stand out.
And if you want more proof that this kid’s star is gonna continue to shine, listen to the words of a famed champion who knows a thing or two about the sport. Ricardo “Finito” Lopez retired undefeated with 51 wins and 38 KOs, earning many championship belts along the way. This little “big man” heaped high praise on Santa Cruz after seeing him in action. “After the fight in Vegas, Ricardo Lopez came over and said he was very impressed with Leo,” team member Adame relays. “Lopez said he really liked his body punching and said Leo’s on his way to the top.”
If “Finito” Lopez is impressed with this boxer, you can be sure Leo Santa Cruz will continue to make his ascent in boxing.
Watch “El Terremoto” shake, rattle and roll on November 10.
Tickets: 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com
Photos by Michele Chong
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