As early as 2012, Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya was yearning on matching Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. In 2012 alone, Santa Cruz was 5-0 with 2 knockouts. On the other hand, Mares scored two dominant decision victories over Eric Morel and Anselmo Moreno to win and retain the WBC Super Bantamweight title.
Let’s be unambiguous here, a fight between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares would never sell out the Staples Center, not even in 2012. An intriguing fight? Absolutely. A fight that deserves a sell-out? Perhaps.
On 5 February 2015, in a surprising move, De La Hoya sold the contract for Leo Santa Cruz to adviser Al Haymon for an undisclosed amount of money. Santa Cruz was still under contract until 2016. De La Hoya sold the contract because he grew irritated at being unable to get Santa Cruz bigger fights with stars like Guillermo Rigondeaux due to Al Haymon, who was already Santa Cruz’s adviser, impeding the fights.
Recently Santa Cruz’s reputation has plummeted as he has taken matches against over-matched opposition in Manuel Roman and Jesus Ruiz. Roman was stopped inside the second, albeit Santa Cruz struggled against the unknown Ruiz in an unendurable match. Thankfully, Santa Cruz stopped the bleeding when he stopped Ruiz inside the eighth.
In August 2013, Abner Mares was knocked out in the first round by the hard-hitting Jhonny Gonzalez and lost his WBC World Featherweight title. After taking nearly 11 months off, Mares scored a unanimous decision victory over Jonathan Oquendo and stopped Jose Ramirez in a captivating performance, but it has not been enough to propel Mares back into world title contention.
With the reputations of both on the line, this is a fight that has the potential to be remarkable. Remember that one of the best fights of all-time was the third fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Both knew their time in the sport was close to seeing the final curtain and boy did they put on a tantalizing performance for those at Madison Square Garden on January 1, 1974.
While these fighters will probably never reach the magnitude that Ali and Frazier reached, they have the potential to prove themselves to fans around the world what they are really made of.
Mares did not feel that the time was right to fight Santa Cruz when Oscar De La Hoya initially pushed for the fight. Now, both are backed into a corner. In an interview with FightHype.com, Mares admitted that neither he nor Cruz have a choice. They must fight.
“It is the right time for both of us. I think for me it would be a great fight that could open up bigger fights,” a candid Mares said.
This sounds reminiscent to the announcement of Mayweather-Pacquiao. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, two of the generation’s best pound-for-pound boxers, finally agreed to fight after nearly six years of stalemates when it became clear that an asterisk would always be present if these two never squared off in the ring. Although it has taken far less time, Leo Santa Cruz- Abner Mares is playing out in similar ways.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. had Marcos Maidana, who was clearly not in his class. Leo Santa Cruz had Jesus Ruiz, who was clearly not in his class, either. Abner Mares is Manny Pacquiao in this scenario. He took a brutal KO that he probably shouldn’t have, but he still has the heart of a world champion. And like Pacquiao, he really wants a rematch with the man who knocked him out, even if it seems impossible.
“He’s a big name. He’s well known here in California and the boxing world now.”
Either way, Mares intimated that this is a winner-take-all scenario, and it’s a win-win for both fighters, with the winner getting the bigger fights down the road.
“Fighting him and beating him will help me no doubt and vice-versa. I think it will help him if he fights me and by any lucky chance beats me; it helps him too. I think it is a win-win for both of us and all the fans in the boxing world. It’s a great fight. There are talks already. Let’s hope we can make this and seal this fight.”