Will Santa Cruz be able to stand up to Mares?

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Leo Santa CruzLongtime boxing commentator and analyst Al Bernstein talked about this weekend’s main attraction on the latest episode of his ‘Boxing Quick Hits’ YouTube channel.

Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KO’s) and Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KO’s) will come together at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California in a 12-round featherweight contest for the WBC Diamond trinket, having both held genuine world titles in the lower divisions.

Their’s is a fight patiently waited for by fans over a prolonged period, and the Hispanic community in the US especially will surely be ecstatic to see these two Mexican-born Americans go at it in typically frenetic fashion.

On approach to the opening bell the only thing that clearly separates these fighters is their resumes – not their comparable numbers – but the quality of opposition they’ve faced.

Bernstein pointed to several of Mares’ former opponents, including Daniel Ponce De Leon, Joseph Agbeko and Eric Morel, as evidence that he has had more meaningful professional experience up to this point, and so is perhaps better equipped to deal with an occasion of this magnitude.

When referencing Santa Cruz, he could not think of any big names and believes that will be to his disadvantage, as come Saturday he will be in the deepest waters of his career against Mares.

“Not suggesting he hasn’t fought good fighters, he has, but he has not fought anywhere near the level of talent that Abner Mares has fought in his career.”

“In recent months, and in the last year really, Santa Cruz has come under serious criticism for that. And that’s why this fight, for him, is a real watershed kind of fight because it is him showing that he’s willing to go up against a top fighter, and people are curious to see how he will do in the fight.”

“Abner Mares is much more battle-tested. So we’re gonna see when push comes to shove, and we get to a point in this match where Leo Santa Cruz is really being tested, will he be able to stand up to somebody like Abner Mares?”

Mares is the only one to have suffered a loss coming into this fight; a first round knockout to Jhonny Gonzalez in 2013 from which he is arguably still regrouping. He has not chanced his hand in a fifty-fifty fight since – until now.

The disparity in resume aside there is not a lot to separate the two in term of ability. It could even turn out that Saturday is the night Santa Cruz steps up in a way his past performances have suggested he can. If so his stock within the sport will be enhanced significantly, if not he can carry on his career in the same vein as before.

For Mares there is much more on the line. If he is outworked over the distance by a man who regularly throws over 1,000 punches per fight, it will make the KO loss to Gonzalez look like worse in retrospect. Then the whispers will begin to sound, ”maybe he isn’t as good as we thought.”