Santa Cruz vs. Mares II: Interviews & undercard fights

R. Schaefer – It’s a pleasure for me to introduce to you Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz. These are two guys which I’m very familiar with. I was fortunate to have promoted most of their fights since very early on in their career. In the case of Abner Mares, from his first fight when he came out of the Mexican Olympics. A lot of people leading up to this fight have asked me why did the rematch take that long? The first fight was in 2015. It was a Fight of the Year candidate, it was a toe to toe battle.

It’s sort of like the way those two guys fight. I don’t think Abner Mares or Leo Santa Cruz are capable even if they try and they try really hard to be in a boring fight. They’re there to entertain. They love to fight. And I think if somebody would ask me what is the perfect timing for the rematch, I would have to say it’s June 9, 2018.

Now why do I say that? Well, I think after the first fight, Abner Mares took some time off, he regrouped, he hired a new trainer with Robert Garcia, one of the best trainers in the world and I think Robert has instilled a lot of confidence in him. They mesh extremely well. (Robert) has come up with perfect game plans for Abner in his last two fights and the chemistry is just something which I really have seen very rarely in the sport.

I know as a fact, because I’ve been there with Abner Mares — that he is maybe the best Abner Mares we have seen. Maybe the best Abner Mares ever going back to the time when he was fighting in the super bantamweight tournament on SHOWTIME as well.

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With Leo Santa Cruz, last week was the open media day here in Los Angeles, and what I came away with is I was very impressed. I was of course impressed with Leo Santa Cruz. He looked spectacular. He looked fast. He looked strong. But what I was made even more so impressed with his father.

As we all know, his father suffered cancer; wasn’t really much of a factor in Leo’s last few camps and that clearly weighed on Leo’s shoulders. And now to see Leo’s father in full strength, making comments, “I defeated, I KO’d cancer.” You can just see how that weight has been lifted off Leo’s shoulders.

So I have no doubt that we will see the best Leo Santa Cruz we have seen in many years, and we will see the absolute best Abner Mares. I think the timing is perfect for June the 9th for those two guys meeting each other again at the famous STAPLES Center which always brings out the best in the fighters.

It’s a pleasure now for me to introduce to you first Abner Mares; doesn’t need much of an introduction. We all know a 2004 Mexican Olympian, pound-for-pound, one of the best and most exciting fighters in the world, born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and now fighting out of Los Angeles with a record of 32 wins, two losses. He is a multi-division world champion; always fighting the best, from 118 to 126 pounds. It’s a pleasure for me to turn it over now to Abner Mares to make some opening comments.

Abner Mares
Thank you, Richard, for the introduction. Thank you to the media. Thank you to all you guys.

I am on my way home from a hard work day and I am ready for June 9. I cannot wait. It’s only less than two weeks, almost a week. And I’m just looking forward to another spectacular night where it would be the best, maybe another one for the books. Thank you.

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R. Schaefer
The other man is the world champion, Leo Santa Cruz with the record of 34 wins and one loss and one draw. As I mentioned before, he’s the one who throws punches in bunches. He is in spectacular shape. He is a multi-division world champion as well; 118, 122 and 126 pounds. In a stellar victory over Carl Frampton where he regained the featherweight world title.

I think, given the fact that his father feels so much better, I think, I can see a different Leo Santa Cruz. And it’s a pleasure for me now to introduce to you as well, my friend, Leo Santa Cruz.

Leo Santa Cruz
Thank you, Richard, for the introduction. And thank you for the media and thank you for everyone who’s in here.

I’m ready for June 9. I know Mares is going to come with his best but he looks really good. He’s a great guy, great person. And he was the best, one of the best fighters out there. The best fights the best. It’s a guaranteed great fight on June 9. We’ll give a great fight for our fans and we’re ready to just go out there and entertain the fans.

Does your experience with that Frampton rematch give you confidence going into this rematch with Abner Mares?

L. Santa Cruz
I’m confident in every fight. I’m not going to go in there with the mindset that, “Oh no I’m going to lose”. I live by my confidence and my training. I train really hard. I give 100% in my training. And now with my dad in my corner, he’s been a lot better, I’ve been able to focus more in my training and everything.

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I know Abner is a great fighter. He’s been training really hard. He’s at his best. He’s got a new trainer. So he’s going to come by his best, I know that so far. I like that when they give their best, it makes me work even harder and bring out my best too.

I’m confident in my training, what I’m doing, doing everything good. And June 9 we’ll see how it goes and hopefully my fight is still great and everything we worked in the gym and give a great fight.

Have you seen any weakness in Leo that gives you more confidence going into this rematch?

A. Mares
I don’t look at tapes, to be honest. I let my coach do that. Obviously I do remember that fight because I did watch it. I was there live. And I mean all I could say from that fight is that you go in looking for certain things and I’ve seen what I need to execute and we’re going to put them to work come June 9.

It’s going to be a great fight, close fight. We’re both in our prime, in our moment like we were in the first fight. And I’m just ready to execute the perfect plan that we have.

Leo what did you feel in your spirit, in your body, in your mind, was there anything missing that night you lost to Frampton as compared to your victory over Frampton in January of last year?

L. Santa Cruz
Yes, you know, I think it was more I wanted to see my dad. In the first fight against Carl Frampton, my dad wasn’t really with me, he was mostly in the clinic or in the hospital. He had surgery. He has that experience to tell me what type of fight to fight in. So I think that was the missing key right there.

Then for the rematch my dad was mostly there in the gym. He told me what kind of fight to fight in. What punches to throw and stuff like that. And so I think it was my dad. My dad was the difference in that fight.

I wonder because you’re fighting him in a rematch and you did get that victory in that fight, is there any part of you that says to yourself, “You know what, I beat this guy.” And it’s a little bit harder maybe to motivate yourself?

L. Santa Cruz
I’m more motivated. Like I said, I don’t want to underestimate Abner Mares. I know Mares is at his best. He’s in his prime. He looked a lot better now. And I am a lot better than the first fight so it makes me train even harder/ I have learned a lot too.

So I think you’re going to see a better fight because Mares is going to give his best. He looked the best he had looked. And I’m more motivated. I don’t want to underestimate him.

It’s going to be a hard fight but we have done everything in the gym to get the victory. We have to work hard and we have worked on things that we have seen that worked on him and that’s what we’re going to do. But I know it’s going to be a hard fight and it’s going to tough, but we’re going to go out there and do our best.

What is it that makes you say that you believe that Abner is better now than he was when you fought him three years ago?

L Santa Cruz
He looks good. He fights differently. He has Robert Garcia as his trainer. Robert Garcia is a great trainer; very smart and driven. He knows how to send a fighter to fight. I have seen him and you could see in his training that he is working really hard and everything. But we like that. We like that because he’s going to come in his best and we’re going to give a better fight.

Do you view Robert as that big of a difference and one of the reasons you believe that he is better today than he was three years ago?

L. Santa Cruz
Yes. I know Robert. Robert is a great trainer and I know he might make a difference. But I also have learned a lot. I got a lot of experience over these few years. And whatever he has learned, I have learned too. And I think it’s going to come down to who wants it the most and I think it’s going to be a great fight/

Do you think about a unification fight after this fight, if you’re successful or do you think about maybe moving up in weight?

L Santa Cruz
I want a unification. Hopefully because of the win, I would like to unify with any other champion. There’s Josh Warrington, Gary Russell, Oscar Valdez and even a third fight against Carl Frampton.

So if the fight is going to make it, I’ll be right there. But for any reason or anything that we can’t make those unifications or any other fights, yes, I would like to move up to 130 and look for another title for 130. But mostly I want to make a fight against another one of the champions.

Does the Gary Russell Jr fight interest you more than any other at featherweight after this fight is successful?

L. Santa Cruz
Yes, it is. I fought Gary in an amateur. We both went to the finals. He beat me but I’m a lot better now. Hopefully it does happen and I can say that I could beat him.


The undercard for the featherweight world championship main event between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares will feature unbeaten 2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas in a six-round super featherweight fight against Mexico’s Pedro Lopez and a welterweight showdown pitting Ivan Redkach against Brian Jones Saturday, June 9 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

The Santa Cruz vs. Mares rematch headlines action live on SHOWTIME in a telecast that also features unbeaten super welterweight world champion Jermell Charlo defending his title against former world champion Austin Trout as part of an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by Ringstar Sports and TGB Promotions, begin at $50, plus applicable fees, and are on sale now. To purchase tickets visit or click HERE.

Additional undercard action will feature unbeaten junior lightweight prospect Jose Gomez entering the ring, the pro debut of Westminster, Calif. prospect Lina Licona for a four-round light flyweight attraction, Antonio Santa Cruz in a bantamweight attraction against Mexico’s Jordan Baletero and the older brother of Karlos Balderas, Jose Balderas, stepping into the ring for a four-round super bantamweight bout.

Rounding out the night are unbeaten Oak Hills, Calif. prospect Jerry Perez taking on Louisiana’s Josh Ross in junior lightweight action, unbeaten Arnold Alejandro in a four lightweight matchup, undefeated Angel Alejandro in four rounds of featherweight action, and Ukraine’s Viktor Slavinski in a junior lightweight matchup against Texas-native Carlos Trevino.

The 22-year-old Balderas (4-0, 3 KOs), a first-generation Mexican-American, competed on the U.S. Olympic boxing team in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil before turning pro in April 2017. Representing Santa Maria, Calif., Balderas scored stoppages in his first three fights before earning a shutout unanimous decision over Jorge Rojas Zacazontetl in February. He will take on the 26-year-old Lopez (7-3-1, 3 KOs) who fights out of Tijuana, Mexico and scored a knockout over Dario Medina in his last outing.

Originally from Ukraine but fighting out of Los Angeles, Redkach (20-4-1, 16 KOs) was in one of the most exciting short fights of 2017 when he engaged in a back-and-forth bout against John Molina Jr. that contained the drama of most 12 round fights condensed into just four. Redkach was able to drop Molina early before succumbing to the veteran and the 32-year-old will look to bounce back against the Los Angeles-native Jones (14-8, 8 KOs), who’s last four wins have all come by stoppage.