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Santa Cruz Returns, Rested and Rejuvenated

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)

On December 15th, Leo Santa Cruz put on a late-finishing kick to defeat the pesky Alberto Guevara at the Los Angeles Sports Arena over 12 rounds. It put a capper on a 2012 where Santa Cruz performed five times and went from a relatively unknown prospect to a world champion who built a fan following for his active, hard-hitting style. But on this early afternoon, for the most part, Santa Cruz looked like a fatigued fighter.
Known for his impressive work rate and nonstop energy, versus Guevara, he just looked a bit flat in front of a national audience watching on CBS.
“I did,” admitted Santa Cruz last week before his last day of sparring at the Who’s Next Boxing Academy in the City of Industry. “I felt kinda tired and my dad was telling me when I was sparring and I was training here, telling me that I looked kinda tired, not to take the fight, that I shouldn’t fight. But I was telling him, ‘Nah, I want to finish the year strong. I want to do five fights’ and he goes, ‘OK.’”

Santa Cruz loves to fight and the lure of being on network television was hard to pass up. But the decision to make sure “Teremoto” - who had just fought five weeks prior on November 10th at the Staples Center (a ninth round stoppage of Victor Zaleta) - would get some rest at the beginning of 2013 was made soon after he trudged through his last bout.
Eric Gomez, matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions, spoke to both the father and Santa Cruz’s manager, Al Haymon. “I said, ‘He looked burnt out. He looked tired. He had a great run. Let’s give him a break. I don’t want to hear his name till March or April.’ And this is just great. I think he had a perfect rest. He’s hungry again. I think he’s ready to put on a great performance.”
Santa Cruz returns in what will be his 122-pound debut this Saturday night as part of the “May Day” undercard at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas where he faces the well-traveled veteran Alexander Munoz. When asked if it was the activity or making the 118-pound weight limit in defense of his IBF title that affected him more, he stated, “I think it was because I fought in November and then I had a month to train. I came right back to the gym with no time to rest or anything and I didn’t have time to do different things I had to do.”
Usually, this young man is the type who will fight on a Saturday night and then literally be back in the gym by the following Tuesday or Wednesday. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Santa Cruz is a boxer who actually treats his vocation as a year-round activity. It would be safe to estimate he spent at least 275 days at the gym last year.
Santa Cruz’s one interest is basically boxing. It’s all he’s ever done. It’s all he really wants to do.
And if it were up to him, he’d be on his second fight this year.
“I wanted to fight in, like, March but they told me, ‘No, you need to rest; take your time. We’re gonna get you on a good card and you’re going to be happy.’ So yeah, it was worth it because I’m on a big undercard and I couldn’t ask for more,” said Santa Cruz, who is just 24 years old.
Santa Cruz says the longest duration he’s ever been out of the gym as a pro was about two weeks. This time around he says, “It was more like one month because I went to Mexico to visit some family and then I came back here and I moved into my new house. And right there is where I took my month off.”
And did he get restless?
“Yeah, I wanted to get back to the gym in two or three weeks but they were telling me I needed to rest and my manager told me to take it easy and, ‘When you go, just be ready.’ It was kinda hard,” he admitted.

Santa Cruz, who has a mark of 23-0-1 (13), harkens back to a day when fighters fought much more often, sharpened their tools and stayed in the spotlight. For this amiable young man, his drive comes from a certain motivation that creeps into paranoia, that staying away too long from his place of work will rob him off his God-given tools, a punishment for not respecting the craft.
“In my mind, it’s like you say, ‘I’m not going to want to train the same or you’re not going to be the same.’ That’s why I wanted to come back,” he explained. “I feel like if I’m off too long, I’m not going to be the same when I came back to the gym. I’m going to be more lazy and even my dad, he tells me, ‘Oh, you have to be ready, so whenever they call you, you’re ready.’ So that’s always on my mind too.”
It’s great in theory to have boxers be more active but it’s another thing to actually have fighters who are willing to continually make that sacrifice to make weight and go through the rigors of a training camp. Gomez points out, “We do have a lot of fighters who are like that. They do want to do it but boxing’s dynamics have changed so much, the business part of it, the dates. Once you pay them a certain amount of money, they get used to that money. When you go back to them and say, ‘Look, you want to stay busy, we can pay you that much,’ – 90 percent of the time it’s a ‘no’. So that’s the problem.”
Gomez says if everything goes well on Saturday night, they would like to see Santa Cruz fight another three times in 2013. “We’re shooting for at least four [this year]. He proved it last year; he can fight every two months. He can fight every three months. So it all depends on how his performance is on May 4th. If he has a relatively easy or clean performance where he doesn’t get injured, he’s going to be in the gym right away.”
On this day at the gym, Santa Cruz looks very good over 10 rounds of sparring, throwing crisp, accurate combinations and actually boxing well from the outside. He looked energetic and fresh, like a fighter who had his batteries refreshed. And he’s ready to go back to his busy itinerary.
“That’s what I want to do, get at least three, four more fights,” he claims. “Hopefully I can get them if everything goes good in this one. We’ve been training hard and looking good.”
While everyone involved in this “May Day” card is claiming a sell-out (or close to it), the reality is there are tickets to be had all over on the secondary market. As of late last week, there were whole rows of tickets available in certain sections on Ticketmaster, which have mysteriously disappeared in the past couple of days.
But if you look at this helpful site ( you’ll see that thousands of tickets are to be had - and at below face value.
The bottom line is that the pricing of this show from Mayweather Promotions seemed exorbitant (and based on public demand, that’s the case) and by basically scaling the whole lower bowl well over $500 and calling it “ringside,” well, this is what could happen. Robert Guerrero is a good fighter but unlike, say, a Miguel Cotto, he doesn’t really bring a strong fan-base of his own.
Also, not having the fight between Saul Alvarez and Austin Trout as the main support bout has hurt sales. The results in San Antonio, where nearly 40,000 patrons packed the Alamodome, bare that out. “Canelo” understood his value to this undercard and rolled the dice in San Antonio. It’s safe to say he made his point on April 20th and made it as it related to the card this weekend.
But yeah, if you need tickets, go to Vegas. They are there to be had - and at a discounted price.
The Nielsen numbers are in for this past weekend’s boxing broadcasts on HBO and Showtime and for April 27th, it’s Showtime that played to a larger audience. They averaged 612,000 viewers (for a rating of 1.5) and peaked during their main event of Danny Garcia vs. Zab Judah with 831,000 viewers (2.1).
HBO averaged 590,000 viewers (1.4) and interestingly, they peaked during the Bermane Stiverne-Chris Arreola fight with 747,000 viewers (1.9) and their featured attraction from Buenos Aires, Argentina with Sergio Martinez vs. Martin Murray had an audience of 696,000 viewers (1.5).
But it has to be pointed out that HBO’s ratings were certainly affected by the stormy weather in Argentina as they juggled their fights, causing the middleweight title fight to lead off their telecast (which began a half-hour earlier than Showtime). Usually, you begin with a certain audience and then build throughout the broadcast to the main event. HBO never really got that opportunity this past weekend.
Regardless, the question has to be asked: When was the last time Showtime beat HBO in the ratings in a head-to-head match-up?


Golden Boy Richard Schaefer has stated to various scribes in Las Vegas that he is targeting September 7th as the date for when Danny Garcia will face the May 18th winner of the bout between Lucas Matthysse and Lamont Peterson on Showtime. Schaefer says regarding to the venue, he wants to see who Garcia will be facing before deciding on one...Speaking of that date, look for HBO to also feature a card that night...Mayweather is about a seven-to-one favorite over Guerrero. I like the chalk. Simply put, unless he’s gone backward physically, I think Mayweather’s too well-rounded and sharp for “The Ghost”...Bob Arum says no decision has been made on Manny Pacquiao’s next fight but it will take place on November 23rd in Macao....Cameron Dunkin has inked a managerial pact with junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan...The Knicks and Thunder aren’t going to choke; right?...I can be reached at and I tweet at We also have a Facebook fan page at, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.

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