“Ever since I was watching Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., and my dad was right there with me, he always said, ‘throw the body punch’ and that’s the way we train,” said Santa Cruz (23-0-1, 13 knockouts), who is trained by his father.
“When you really hurt a guy to the body, you can see it in his expression. You see him go backward and he draws his elbows in to protect his body. Or you can see the expression in their face, or they’ll go, ‘uuggh,’ or something like that. That’s when you know they’re hurt.”
Santa Cruz will try to employ similar strategy on Saturday night against Venezuela’s Alexander Munoz (36-4, 28 KOs), a former two-time 115-pound beltholder who won his first 23 bouts by knockout.
Santa Cruz is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Alberto Guevara last December, which marked the third defense of the IBF belt he had won by unanimous decision over Vusi Malinga last June.
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.
At the podium, during Thursday’s final press conference, Santa Cruz shared his enthusiasm heading into Saturday night.
“I want to go out there on Saturday and show the world who Leo Santa Cruz is. I’m very excited to be on this big card,” said Santa Cruz, who vacated his IBF bantamweight belt to rise in weight to face Munoz.
“I want to show the world who I am. I’ve trained really hard, and I know that Alexander Munoz is really strong fighter. He comes forward, and he can finish a fight with one punch… On Saturday, we’re going to make it a war. I’m going to go out there and try to finish him before the end of the 10 rounds.”
The hard-hitting Munoz 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.
“I am so looking forward to getting back in the ring on May 4 and taking the young Leo Santa Cruz to school,” said Munoz, who is 34. “My experience is going to trump his youth, and I plan on handing him his first loss in front of the world on Showtime pay per view.”
ABNER MARES, DANIEL PONCE DE LEON EACH MANAGED BY ‘NEUTRAL’ FRANK ESPINOZA
Rising two-division titlewinner Abner Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs) and hard-punching WBC featherweight titleholder Daniel Ponce de Leon (44-4, 35 KOs) will each make $375,000 for their fight on the Mayweather-Guerrero undercard.
They are each managed by Frank Espinoza, who has remained neutral throughout the promotion.
However, the same could not be said for manager-trainer Arturo “Cuyo” Hernandez, who had both fighters in April of 1977 when bantamweight titleholders and KO artists Carlos Zarate and Alfonso Zamora met at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif, according to RingTV.com contributor Norm Frauenheim of www.15rounds.com.
Hernandez, worked the corner for Zarate, who won a fourth-round knockout, a move that enraged Zamora’s father, who was in his son’s corner.
Zamora Sr. apparently walked across the ring and kicked below Hernandez below the belt line, according to Hall of Fame promoter Don Chargin and longtime publicist Bill Caplan, of Golden Boy Promotions.
THE MAYWEATHER PROMOTIONS UNDERCARD
Mayweather will unveil five of his fighters on the undercard, including middleweight J’Leon Love (15-0, 8 KOs), a 25-year-old Michigan native now living in Las Vegas.
In his last, Rosado suffered January’s bloody seventh-round stoppage loss to Kazakhstan-born WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin in The Theatre at Madison Square Garden.
Others being showcased by Mayweather are super middleweights Ronald Gavril (3-0, 2 KOs), Luis Arias (4-0, 3 KOs) and Lanell Bellows (3-0-1, 3 KOs), and lightweight Jack Badou (13-0, 9 KOs).
Gavril will face Robert Yong (5-6-2, 4 KOs), of Phoenix, Az., Arias has DonYil Livingston (8-2-1, 4 KOs), of Palmdale, Calif., Bellows meets Matthew Garretson (2-0, 1 KO), of Charleston, Wv., and Jack, Michael Gbenga (13-7, 13 KOs), of Silver Spring, Md.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com