WBC Featherweight World Champion Daniel Ponce de Leon, Two-Division World Champion Abner Mares, and former IBF Bantamweight World Champion Leo Santa Cruz participated in a media workout Thursday in Los Angeles in preparation for their upcoming bouts on the “MAY DAY: Mayweather vs. Guerrero” pay-per-view mega-event on Saturday, May 4 at the MGM Grand Garden Arenain Las Vegas, Nev. which will be produced and distributed live by SHOWTIME PPV®.
A 2000 Olympian, Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico’s Daniel Ponce de Leon (44-4, 35 KO’s) will make the first defense of his WBC Featherweight World Championship against Two-Division World Champion Mares. Ponce de Leon, who won the title in 2012 with a victory over then-champion Jhonny Gonzalez, has won world titles in the junior featherweight and featherweight divisions while establishing himself as one of boxing’s most popular knockout artists. He made six consecutive defenses of his 122-pound title and has knocked out almost 75 percent of his opponents.
The undefeated Mares (25-0-1, 13 KO’s) is one of the newest members of boxing’s pound-for-pound best list. The 2004 Mexican Olympian who lives in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif. dominated the bantamweight division with four consecutive world title wins over the best boxers in the weight class. In 2012, Mares moved up to 122 pounds and won the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight belt in his first fight in the division against Eric Morelin April. He retained the title against Anselmo Moreno in November. Mares will challenge Ponce de Leon at 126 pounds for a chance at a world title in a third division.
Santa Cruz (23-0-1, 13 KO’s) was one of boxing’s most active world champions in 2012. After winning the IBF Bantamweight World Championship in June, the Los Angeles resident by way of Huetamo, Mexico, defended the title three times with two knockouts and a commanding unanimous decision. After wiping out the bantamweight division, the undefeated Santa Cruz relinquished his title to move up to 122 pounds. On May 4, Santa Cruz will face veteran Alexander Munoz in a 10-round junior featherweight bout for the vacant USBA Junior Featherweight Championship.
Here’s what the fighters and Golden Boy Promotions President Oscar De La Hoya had to say on Thursday:
DANIEL PONCE DE LEON:
“Great fight. Two Mexican warriors. We’re expecting a great fight on May 4.
“We know each other. We’ve been training in the same gym and that’s why I’m expecting a great fight, because we’ve known each other for so many years.
“It doesn’t matter, if it’s a decision or if it’s a knockout. Obviously, a knockout would be best. That’s what I’m working for. If the fight goes all 12 rounds, I’m going to win. I feel that I’m going to win the fight.
“I was WBO champion at 122 pounds and I kept it for so many years. Now I have this one, the WBC at 126 pounds, and I don’t expect to let it go in my next fight. I expect to keep it for a long, long time.
“I’m used to [fighting] on those [Mexican holiday] dates. Last year, I fought May 4. Now I’m coming back on the same date. I can feel the energy is there. It was a very special moment for Mexico because it was at war at that time, and now I’m going to have another war against Abner Mares on that same day. I’m going to be celebrating my victory with my friends and everybody, and also with SHOWTIME.
“I have only one style – go forward, so I’m going to throw punches down and up, head and everywhere once the bell rings until the fight ends.
“I think the advantage is with me. I was very solid at 122 and now I’ve been fighting at 126 for many years, so I don’t think he’ll have that advantage because he’s jumping from one division to another division. When he feels my power, he won’t know what’s going on. I’m going to throw as many punches as I can against him.
“I’ve had some good, difficult fights, so I don’t see this one as the most difficult [of my career]. I’ve had so many great wars, so this one won’t be the most difficult. It’s going to be a very interesting fight. I think I am very solid at 126 and I know for a fact that it’s difficult when you jump divisions. It’s difficult to get power. You have to establish it with some fights in order to get it. I’ve fought 130-pound fighters, 145-pound fighters, so I know that power. It’s kind of difficult for Abner because he doesn’t know that power.
“I’m not thinking about who’s stronger. I know Mares. He’s coming. He’s jumping divisions and I don’t want to think that he’s weak. I want to be focused on me.
“If he wants to get into a brawl, we’re going to do it. If he wants to run around, wants to box, then we’re going to fight him. I have my plan and I want to stick with my plan. I don’t care what he brings or what he doesn’t bring. I’m going to be there. I have the experience and, like I said, if he wants to exchange, I’m happy just waiting for him.
“Mayweather is a very solid fighter, a very skillful fighter. However, in boxing, anything can happen. Robert Guerrero might give fans a surprise. I hope Guerrero wins, but you never know because Mayweather is such a good fighter.”
“It’s going be a great fight – a fight that a lot of fans are looking forward to. It’s going to be a difficult fight being that I’m stepping up to a different weight class, a weight class that I’m not familiar with. At the same time, I’m excited to capture my third world title. I plan to steal the show May 4.
“I know a lot about my opponent. I’ve known this guy for many years. We kind of grew up in the boxing industry, since we were amateurs. He’s a good guy, a good friend, but he’s got a style that I’m kind of unfamiliar with. I sparred with him before, but I haven’t trained or sparred with him in the past three years. I know he’s changed, but I’ve changed too and it’s going to be a whole different fight.
(On his friendship with de Leon) “I’ve forgotten him already. He’s not my friend at all right now. He’s my opponent. I see him like that. Once I step in the ring, it’s just win, win, win, man. I’m going try to tear him up and win this fight because it’s a big fight for me. It’s going to put me in a great position.
“I have to be straight-forward. He’ll be my friend after the fight but now he’s just my opponent. He’s trying to take away my undefeated record and I can’t let that happen.
(On his manager Frank Espinoza who also manages Ponce de Leon) “He’s not stepping into my training camp. I don’t know if he’s going to Ponce’s training camp, but he’s not coming into my training camp. We stay in touch, but when it comes to the fight, he’s not going to be in the dressing room. He’s just going to be like any other fan. He’s going to go there and just enjoy the fight.
“It’s really important to get a knockout and just get a win, no matter what. It’s going to be my third world title. I could become one of the youngest Mexican fighters to become a three-time world champion in three different weight classes, so I’m excited.
“Anyone can knock out anybody. I have power. It’s not like I have three knockouts. I’ve got 13 knockouts and if you go back to my last fight, I knocked down Moreno. I’ve always hurt guys or knocked them down. Going into a different weight class, who knows, with that extra weight, it might give me an extra heavy punch. I do plan on making a statement. If it comes by knockout, so be it. I’m ready. I’ve been working on my power punches.
“Being a Mexican, I’m from Guadalajara, Jalisco, I can’t wait to be in a good fight. Cinco de Mayo, a lot of Mexican flags, a lot of Mexican people, and I’m going to make it my night.
(On fighting on SHOWTIME PPV) “Man, it’s everything. I think it’s any fighter’s dream coming up now, to fight on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather. We know he brings great people, a great number of fans and I can’t wait. With that said, I’m more excited to steal the show and make it my night. Not Mayweather’s night, my night. I know I’m going to win and I know it’s going to put me on a whole different level because millions of people are going to be watching. I’m going to be showcasing my talent.”
LEO SANTA CRUZ:
“He’s going come and try and knock me out. He’s an explosive fighter. He likes to knock out people and I think I heard that he said that he’s going to come out and knock me out. We’re ready. We’re training for everything. We’ve been practicing in the gym how to move and not to stay there to get hit by his jabs.
“He said that his experience is going to beat me, but I don’t think so. A lot of fighters have said that and nobody has done it.
“It’s not important to get a knockout. I want to get the win and please the people. I want to give fans a good show. That’s what I want to do — please the fans. We’ve been training really hard in the gym and if the knockout comes, it comes. We’ve been practicing with going for body shots and to the head, too.
“I just know that he’s a very strong fighter. He comes forward. He throws his punches, but we’re working in the gym on that and my dad (Jose) is teaching me not to stay there for when he throws his uppercut. We’ve been studying his punches and we think we’re going in good shape. He’s explosive. He could finish a fight with one punch, but we’ve really prepared for him. We’re not going to stay there and take his punches. We’re going to box him. We’re going to be right there pressuring and pressuring. If he’s not hurting me, we’re going to be inside.
“Yeah, my body feels a little fresher. I wanted to fight earlier, but I’ve always been in the gym. Since my last fight, I took a month off and that was the longest I have ever taken off , but I didn’t feel very good. I wanted to go back to the gym and start training.
“I’m very excited because I want to give fans a good show. That’s why I’ve been training really hard. Hopefully they like how I fight and they come out and enjoy the show.
“What you guys can expect from me is a war. I’m going to give all I got. I’m going to go out there and work my butt off for the fans, for all the Mexicans, all the people that are watching. They’re going to be pleased. That’s what I’m here for, to give fans what they want, and I think I’m going to give them what they want.
“As a Mexican, it’s a great, great, great day to fight near Cinco de Mayo because it’s a day of Mexicans. It’s even more motivation for me to go out there, try my best and give it all I’ve got. I can’t let the people down.
“I learned a lot from him [brother, Antonio, a former world champion], from the mistakes and from the good things. You learn from everything. He works with me in my corner. He tells me what punches to throw. He comes to the gym when he can.
“I think people already kind of know me more. The more active I can be, the better for me. That’s why I like to fight a lot.
“I’m done with 118. I’m going to 122 and will see how it goes there. If everything goes well, and I win a world title, I’ll probably move to 126.
“I feel stronger, and people have said I look stronger at 122.”
OSCAR DE LA HOYA:
“We’re just making fights happen and putting boxing back on the map. We have exciting projects coming up. We have exciting fights coming up. We’re working closely with SHOWTIME and making sure that we just bring the best fights possible.
“The fourth of May is a celebration of a Cinco de Mayo weekend. A lot of Mexicans and Mexican Americans are going to be celebrating that weekend. Everybody is going to be celebrating in Vegas that weekend.
(On Leo Santa Cruz) “When (Golden Boy Matchmaker Eric) Gomez brought him to my attention, I thought he was good. I thought he was a fighter who was going to go far, but he’s exceeded everybody’s expectations. This guy is not only going to go far, but he’s going to accomplish many great things in the sport of boxing. He’s a very disciplined, exciting fighter. Now in speaking to his father, he’s telling me that he’s just looking incredible. A lot of energy. He’s motivated. He’s going to be quite a champion for many years to come.
“For the viewing audience, we want to give them exciting fights, and you can’t go wrong with Leo Santa Cruz because he’s a very, very exciting fighter to watch and he gets the job done.
(On Ponce de Leon-Mares fight): “They’re very professional. They both respect each other. You don’t have the trash-talking. You don’t have the back and forth bickering with one another. It’s all about getting in there and fighting. Abner Mares knows he’s in a tough fight. Ponce de Leon knows he’s in a tough fight. It’s two L.A. kids that are going to bring back those memories of the Olympic Auditorium when we used to watch those Tuesday night fights every single week. You would see a war, and that’s what we’re going to have with Abner Mares and Ponce de Leon. It’s all business and they know that. They know that they’re going to come out of the fight cut and bruised, and maybe knocked down a few times. They knew that right from the start, right from when they signed the contracts. They know they’re going to get beat up, but they respect that and that’s the beauty of it.
“May 4, obviously, topping it all off with Mayweather-Guerrero, it’s going to be historic. I believe it’s going to be a very tough, rugged fight for Mayweather. I’m going to predict that it’s probably going to be the toughest fight for Mayweather. Not because he’s diminished in his skills. He’s still obviously a great fighter. He has the talent and the skills, but he’s 36 years old. Remember that. He’s facing a young guy who’s going to be in his face. Mayweather is going to come out to fight. He has said it all along. He’s going to walk him down with his style. He’s not going to run from him. I think it’s going to be a very tough, physical fight for both guys.
“It’s always a privilege, it’s always an honor, to promote an event on Cinco de Mayo weekend, especially when you have Mayweather and Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero. Then you talk about Abner Mares against Ponce de Leon. You have Leo Santa Cruz on the card. It’s going to be a spectacular night for boxing and for SHOWTIME.
“The great thing about this fight card is that I’m looking forward to all the fights. That’s now the trend, that’s now the motto within Golden Boy Promotions, is you have to make great fights. You have to make competitive fights. You have to make fights where there is no loser. If you fight hard and you lose a decision in a great fight, you’re going to come back for one more. You’re going to come back for another day. You’re going to make an impression on everybody and people are going to demand you. So just fight hard. This is what this card is all about – fighting hard and giving the fans a great fight. This (card) is going to be action, action, action! It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be incredible.
“Boxing is in a revival and it obviously starts with April 20 (in San Antonio) and then moves on past May 4, but May 4 everybody’s excited about.”