Lem Satterfield

Leo Santa Cruz: Bring on Guillermo Rigondeaux


Leo Santa Cruz (L) fighting Cesar Seda in December 2013. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

In the wake of last weekend’s first-round stoppage of Sod Kokietgym, RING junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux called out WBC and IBF counterparts Leo Santa Cruz and Kiko Martinez.

Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 knockouts) did not take long to respond, doing so on his Twitter account on Thursday.

“We train 100 percent in the gym to give the fans great fights. We are ready to fight @RigoElChacal305 any time any place,” wrote Santa Cruz. “We aren’t afraid to fight anybody. I love all my fans. Thank you for the support.”

Santa Cruz had even more to say after being contacted by RingTV.com.

“It’s like I said, I’m not scared, and if people think that I’m running from him. I’m not afraid to fight nobody. I’m here to fight whoever,” said Santa Cruz. “If the fans want it, I’m here to give the fans what they want, and it doesn’t matter if I lose. If I fight strong, then even if I lose, then I win.”

Also the holder of the WBA and WBO belts, the 33-year-old Rigondeaux (14-0, 9 knockouts) ended a 36-0-1 unbeaten streak for Kokietgym, and was coming off back-to-back unanimous decisions over Nonito Donaire in April 2013 and Joseph Agbeko in December. Rigondeaux won the RING and WBO titles in the Donaire fight and the WBA title against Ricardo Cordoba in late 2010, his seventh pro bout.

But Santa Cruz believes that he has the style to take down Rigondeaux.

“I think that I can bring a lot of pressure to him in a fight, and that I will stay on top of him. All he’s ever waiting for is the opportunity to counterpunch. But I would stay right on top of him and go 100 percent to stay on top of him so that he wouldn’t know what to do,” said Santa Cruz.

“He’s a really smart fighter and he’s really slick, so I would be happy winning a decision. It would be hard to catch him because he knows how to avoid punches. But I would stay on top of him and, hopefully, catch him with a good punch. Then, if the knockout comes, then it comes. But if we go the distance and win a decision, then I would be happy with that.”

A swiftly rising body-puncher who turns 25 next month, Santa Cruz defended the 118-pound strap three times — twice by stoppage — before winning his 122-pound debut by fifth-round knockout over Alexander Munoz in May 2013, Munoz’s first loss by stoppage after 40 pro bouts.

Santa Cruz then took another step up in stature by scoring two knockdowns on the way to dethroning Victor Terrazas by third-round stoppage last August. Santa Cruz ended Terrazas’ streak of 11 straight wins, seven of which were by knockout, at the same site as his victory over Vusi Malinga for the IBF’s bantamweight belt in June 2012.

Santa Cruz is now coming off consecutive unanimous decision victories over Cesar Seda in December and Cristian Mijares in March, and says he is being considered for a berth on the undercard of the Sept. 13 rematch between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Marcos Maidana.

“I heard that from Golden Boy that they’re thinking about it, and I think that’s about 90 percent for sure,” said Santa Cruz. “They’re still looking for opponents, but then, hopefully, I win that and then take two more fights and then fight Rigondeaux. I’ll fight him whenever the fans want, but that’s not up to me, that’s up to my promoter. If they can make it, then they’ll make it.”

Rigondeaux-Santa Cruz is a fight that Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya would love to make a reality.

“Nothing would make me happier than to see Leo take on Guillermo,” said De La Hoya. who promotes Santa Cruz. “Santa Cruz will run him out of the ring.”

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