Lem Satterfield

Santa Cruz rises to the challenge versus Munoz

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LAS VEGAS — Unbeaten former bantamweight beltholder Leo Santa Cruz will make his 122-pound debut against Alexander Munoz on Saturday’s Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero undercard with the goal of winning a division title and eventually rising into the featherweight ranks. 

“This is big pressure for me, being on a card with Mayweather. For me to be on that card, that’s telling me that people are expecting a lot from me,” said Santa Cruz, a 24-year-old pressure fighter from the Los Angeles area.

“I want to come out there on May 4 and impress all of the people. I want to give the fans what they want. I’m excited to be on that big undercard.”

Santa Cruz (23-0-1, 13 knockouts) vacated his IBF bantamweight title to rise in weight to face Munoz (36-4, 28KOs), a former two-tiime 115-pound beltholder who won his first 23 bouts by knockout.

A brutal body-puncher, Santa Cruz is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Alberto Guevara last December that marked the third defense of the IBF belt he had won by unanimous decision over Vusi Malinga last June.

“Obviously, a lot of the better fighters are at 122. There are a lot of big names there as well as at 126,” said Santa Cruz. “So my objective is to fight at 122 a couple of times, and then, hopefully, fight for a world title there. If I’m able to win a world title, defend it a few times, then I can very easily move up to 126.”

Before facing Guevara, Santa Cruz had scored 11 knockouts in his previous 12 fights, including fifth- and ninth-round knockouts over ex-beltholder Eric Morel and Victor Zaleta in September and November of last year.

The hard-hitting Munoz, 34, never has been stopped and is coming off a sixth-round knockout of Ever Garcia Hernandez last November. Munoz has lost decisions to former beltholders Martin Castillo (twice), Koki Kameda and Cristian Mijares.

“We’re prepared to work the body and establish something because we want to try to be the first guys to stop him because nobody has ever stopped him,” said Santa Cruz.

“We’re going to go out and try to impress with a knockout and be the first one to stop him. If not, then we’ll try to look really good and efficient and impress all of the fans so that they’ll keep on following me.”

 

Photo by Tom Casino, Showtime

Lem Satterfield can be reached at lemuel.satterfield@gmail.com

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