Leo Santa Cruz’s nickname is “Terre Moto,” which means Earthquake in Spanish.
So far, he’s lived up to his moniker with a high punch output, accurate body attack, and hard-hitting ability that has enabled him smash experienced former beltholders Eric Morel and Alexander Munoz on his way to winning major titles at bantamweight and junior featherweight.
Tonight the 25-year-old pressure fighter faces another veteran in Cristian Mijares at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The bout will precede the main event between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Alfredo Angulo. Both bouts will be broadcast live on Showtime Pay Per View.
While Santa Cruz (26-0, 15 KOs) has mostly dominated his opposition thus far, the Los Angeles resident could have his hands full with Mijares, a former three-time junior bantamweight titleholder.
The savvy 32-year-old southpaw has won 13 of his last 14 bouts, with the loss being a close split decision to Victor Terrazas. Santa Cruz stopped Terrazas in the third round to win the WBC 122-pound title last August.
“He’s a great fighter,” Santa Cruz told RingTV.com in a recent phone interview. “He’s crafty and has a lot of experience, but I believe it’s my time. I’m younger, faster, and I trained really hard. I know his weaknesses and we’re going to go hard at him.”
In his last bout on Dec. 14, Santa Cruz faced another southpaw in Cesar Seda. While he won a 12-round unanimous decision, Santa Cruz did not look as sharp as in previous fights.
It could be Santa Cruz may have a more difficult time against southpaws or he was surprised at what Seda brought to the fight.
“Seda was ready and I could tell that he trained hard to win,” said Santa Cruz, who is promoted Golden Boy Promotions and managed by Al Haymon. “He moved and tried to outbox me. I do admit he (Seda) made it a little complicated for me. I just want to learn from my mistakes.”
It says a lot about Santa Cruz to always want to improve and not be complacent as a prizefighter.
“My family and fans are my motivation,” he said. “I look at each fight as if I’m the challenger and not a champion. That’s what gets me to work harder and train harder.”
Santa Cruz appeals to fight fans not only because of his aggressive style, but his quiet and humble demeanor.
Santa Cruz remembers fighting in front of a handful of fans as a prospect in humble venues such as the Alameda Swap Meet in Los Angeles, but he does yearn to one day headline a big card.
It is a realistic dream that could become a reality very soon, so long as he continues winning.
“I would love to fight in a main event in (Las) Vegas or at Staples Center in Los Angeles,” he said. “I feel like I’m close to that and I want to keep working to that. I feel like l could fight the (Carl) Framptons of boxing soon.
“There are a lot of dreams I have, but I have to continue to work hard. I have to keep getting better and I think of my family and my fans. They’re the motivation; why I work and train harder.”
A convincing victory over Mijares will not only bring him one step closer to his goals, but it could also prove he could box and not rely on his power or his aggression.
“The pressure is on him,” Santa Cruz said. “I’m going to go at him and break him down.”
Photo / Naoki Fukuda
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing