Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KO’s) and Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KO’s) are two of the more glamorous names south of the welterweight division; two Mexican-born Americans with entertaining, high output styles.
Each has had a stint as the IBF bantamweight and WBC super-bantamweight champion. Mares also enjoyed a brief stint as the WBC featherweight champ in 2013, and it is there at 126 lbs. where the two will meet on August 29th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Though Mares alone has been defeated up to this point, it is he who has faced the stronger opposition. A win over Vic Darchinyan, two over Joseph Agbeko, and another over Daniel Ponce De Leon brought him along to meet Jhonny Gonzalez, who promptly knocked him out in the first round for one of the biggest upsets in 2013.
Since then, he has been rebuilding against fighters from the tier below and Santa Cruz is the first fifty-fifty assignment he has taken since the Gonzalez loss, and a high-profile one at that.
If the heat is on for the 29-year-old, he didn’t show it when speaking to Fight HubTV. He seemed almost nonchalant throughout the interview and poked fun at Santa Cruz’s resume.
“Of course I’m his biggest name because he hasn’t fought anybody I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m not saying it to hype myself but you know.”
This is the most recurring criticism of Santa Cruz; he has good numbers but his resume isn’t exactly littered with recognisable names.
If Mares has been easing his way back into losable fights, it can be argued that Santa Cruz has barely risked his neck at all. That isn’t to knock his 31 previous opponents, but he looks to have been fighting well within his comfort zone for a long time, a pattern that may serve to undermine his efforts against a fellow A-sider.
Mares rates his ability, his capacity for victory, over Santa Cruz’s, and says the blame for a loss will be placed squarely on his shoulders should that unthinkable event come to pass.
“He’s not the biggest challenge of my career.”
“My biggest challenge is myself. Like I said, the only way this guy could beat me is by me not training properly. That’s it.”
“Leo’s a great fighter, no doubt he’s gonna give me a tough fight, that doesn’t mean he’s not, he is. He’s a great fighter but I don’t see it that way. I’ve faced many other fighters, stronger, more hungrier, world champs at the time and that’s it. I know I’m fighting him at his prime but that’s it. No pressure whatsoever on this side.”
There were suspicions of over-confidence surrounding Mares after the loss to Gonzalez; he gives off a vibe, several smirks short of cocky.
When confidence blurs into complacency big problems arise at the highest level, but he looks in tremendous physical condition one week out from the fight. Based on that alone we may guess he is less relaxed than his demeanour suggests.