Terrazas doesn’t have Santa Cruz’s instant, little brother smile or easy way with the press. What he has is tenacity, patience and experience. He’s fought and beaten two former world champions in Fernando Montiel and Cristian Mijares, from whom he won the vacant WBC title last April. A win takes Terrazas from beltholder to player against the likes of Kiko Martinez in a unification bout or a Santa Cruz rematch.
“Fighting in Los Angeles and [on] Showtime is a great opportunity for me to get more exposure and for more fans to know who I am,” Terrazas said. “I absolutely know the importance of getting great exposure and know what a victory on Saturday will mean for me.
“More than anything, the added exposure gives you more notoriety and opens more doors for you, not only in boxing but everything else. I am looking forward to this fight very much.”
And so Terrazas risks big by leaving Mexico for the third time in his career (he’s 1-1) to take on Santa Cruz on what is regarded as “Teremoto’s” turf. Terrazas is 2-0 against former world titleholders. Santa Cruz gives him a chance to make it 3-0.
“As world champion, you have to defend against any and all comers,” said Terrazas. “Every fight I’ve had or he’s had has been a war and this will not be an exception. This is a great match-up, a fan’s fight. If I was a fan, I know for sure that I’d be watching.”
There are fewer, more difficult ways up boxing’s ranks than the one through Mexico that the 30-year-old Mexican veteran Terrazas has taken.
Terrazas started boxing as a young man following years of running wild on the streets of Guadalajara. His street fighting reputation, as told to writer Anson Wainwright here, earned Terrazas the name “Vikingo” for his Viking-like nature. As a pro, not much has changed.
At age 30, he has amassed a record of 37-2-1 with 21 knockouts. It’s the classic Mexican fighter record. Terrazas turned pro 10 years ago in March and was knocked out in two rounds. He bounced back fighting seven more times up to December of 2004, going 6-0-1 with no knockouts in that time.
Terrazas resumed his career in 2006 by fighting six times and going 6-0 (4) that year. By 2010, he was in position for his first fight outside of Mexico. The opponent was Rendall Munroe in a WBC super bantamweight eliminator in the U.K. Terrazas was stopped in nine rounds.
Undeterred, Terrazas took remembered the lesson he learned from his debut and returned home to Mexico, where he worked his way back into position for a title shot. This time, the opportunity was against former world champion Fernando Montiel - and Terrazas did not disappoint.
The bout was tight because Montiel’s power is just as potent as his chin is suspect. And Terrazas, while aggressive, tends to peck and poke with a hard jab and a lead right hand, drawing the fight out. In the end, Terrazas won because of a straight right that led to a fifth round knockdown of Montiel.
Against both Montiel and Mijares, Terraza’s strengths and weaknesses showed. He tends to stand directly in front of an opponent whether attacking or being attacked. He also brings his hand back low off the jab and left hook. Neither of these things have gone unnoticed by Santa Cruz and will be exploited heavily unless corrected.
However, research goes both ways.
“I’ve studied a lot of tape on Santa Cruz,” said Terrazas of the young fighter, who is not exactly a defensive mystery himself. “We’ll see on Saturday how it plays out. Fighters can change from fight to fight but I know I am prepared and ready for anything. I think one of my best advantages is that I am shorter than he is and because of that, I will be able to get inside.”
This fight will come down to conditioning and adjustments. It will likely take place on the inside with each man trying to get lower than the other and come underneath with uppercuts and hooks to the body to set the head up for later.
“This is going to be a very active fight. Going in, we know that Leo Santa Cruz is the favorite in his hometown but I’m champion of the world and I’m here to show you why I’m the champion. I’m really excited about fighting in his backyard and I’m confident I’ll be successful. I am ready,” Terrazas said simply.
When asked if this was his toughest opponent compared to Montiel and Mijares, both who have seen younger days (unlike Santa Cruz who is young and not even prime yet), Terrazas said, “I see him as very strong. Obviously, he’s a young strong fighter and stronger than my past opponents.”
Some fighters speak of needing motivation for their fights. “I can’t get up for smaller names,” they say. Terrazas is not that guy. He’s a pro who came up the hard way. Being self-motivated is what made him a champion.
“I do believe I’m getting overlooked in this fight but that doesn’t take away my desire or my will to win,” he explained. “Being overlooked also doesn’t give me any more motivation but that’s only because I’m already motivated. There’s a reason why I’m champion.”
Whomever ends up champion on Saturday night will have to look no further than four pounds north to see the super-fight of their lower weight class dreams in the winner of the Abner Mares-Jhonny Gonzalez fight - particularly if it’s Abner Mares.
Said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, “If that’s the biggest fight, which has an opportunity, which the fans want, the network wants, and has an opportunity to make a substantial amount of money for both fighters, then let’s do it. And I know that Abner and Leo are the kind of fighters that never turn down anyone. They’re always up for a challenge.”
But first things first.
“I can assure you all that it’s going to be a great fight. Leo Santa Cruz is a strong fighter; he comes forward. He started from the bottom and he’s been chipping at winning, getting wins, just like we all do,” assessed Terrazas. “I now have the title and I’m going to go in there to defend it with all I have so that we can give the public a great fight. And the best man, the best prepared fighter, will win that night.”
At 30, Terrazas is who he is to a certain degree. Against Mijares, he went life and death, eking out the win and getting dropped in the final round. Terrazas has blamed this on last-minute weight loss.
Santa Cruz is still growing into this weight class from 118 and is not going to have to suffer to make weight the same way Terrazas has. Couple in his non-stop buzzsaw attack with Terrazas’ weak, front-side offense and a typical Leo Santa Cruz slow-rolling, late assault that leads to a stoppage is likely the case. Santa Cruz in 10.
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