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Leo on Cruz Control

(Photo © K9 Photos)
(Photo © K9 Photos)

By Bill Tibbs


Tomorrow night, Leo Santa Cruz and Cristian Mijares will do battle at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for champion Santa Cruz’s World Boxing Council (WBC) super bantamweight title. Mijares, 49-7-2 (24), looks to come in and be the first to add an “L” to the popular champion’s résumé. Meanwhile, Santa Cruz will look to remain undefeated in the second defense of the title he won in August of 2013.
 
The always smiling, Rosemead, California resident Santa Cruz turned pro as a shy, somewhat unassuming scrapper in 2006. However, he quickly started to make a name for himself among the big little men in boxing. By the end of 2010, he was 14-0-1 and poised to make a move in the bantamweight rankings. In his first fight of 2011, he picked up the interim WBC youth world bantamweight title. After four more wins, Santa Cruz was awarded a world title shot in June of 2012. He won a 12-round unanimous decision over Vusi Malinga to capture the vacant International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight title in Carson, California. As one of boxing’s more active champions, he would go on to defend the title three more times that year.

Santa Cruz opened up 2013 by winning the vacant United States Boxing Association (USBA) super bantamweight title with a fifth round TKO in May over Alexander Munoz in Las Vegas. Just three months later, he would capture the WBC super bantamweight title with a third round TKO over defending champion Victor Terrazas. In December of last year, Leo would drop challenger Cesar Seda in the fifth round and go on to win a 12 round unanimous decision over his game challenger in the first defense of his strap. And now, the champion is ready to get to work for 2014 and he is kicking things off with his second title defense against a tough veteran and former world champion in Cristian Mijares.
 
Challenger Mijares is an experienced ex-champ who has been in the ring with the likes of Jorge Arce, Vic Darchinyan and Rafael Marquez among others in his 58-fight, multiple world championship-winning career. Mijares won the WBC super flyweight title in 2007 and would go on to defend it six times. In this time span in 2008, he would add the World Boxing Association (WBA) super flyweight title to the collection. In his second title defense in November of 2008, Vic Darchinyan stopped Mijares in nine rounds.
 
In his first two fights of 2009, he would lose decisions in back-to-back bids for the WBA bantamweight title against Nehomar Cermeno. However, five fights later in December of 2012, Mijares beat Juan Rosas for the IBF super flyweight title. He would defend the title in his next fight, then string together five straight wins to vault him into a shot for the vacant WBC super bantamweight title in April of last year. In a close fight, he would lose a split decision to Victor Terrazas. Now, after a win in July of 2013, he finds himself getting a shot at Santa Cruz and his WBC super bantamweight title.
 
At 32 and with 16 years in the trenches having turned pro at age 16, Mijares has a lot of miles on the odometer. As hot as they come in boxing right now, Santa Cruz is looking to remain undefeated as he looks toward a big fight down the line. With fellow WBA super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, Spanish IBF titleholder Kiko Martinez, and former champions Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel still treading water in the 122-pound end of the pool, there are some great options for the winner.
 
One young buck looks to stay unbeaten and keep moving north. The older, tough veteran looks to rebound and get back on the world title tier. Look for a good super bantamweight brawl to heat up the ring for junior middleweight headliners Saul Alvarez and Alfredo Angulo tomorrow night in “Sin City.”
 
Questions and comments can be sent to Bill Tibbs at hwtibbs@shaw.ca.
 
 
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