Mares, Santa Cruz on early 2018 collision course – Orange County Register

Abner Mares has been waiting two years to get another crack at Leo Santa Cruz. Mares thought it was going to happen Oct. 7, but a signed deal never materialized, so the wait will be a bit longer.
Instead of facing each other next, Mares and Santa Cruz – both holders of a piece of the featherweight championship – will defend their respective belts Oct. 14 at StubHub Center (on Fox). If Mares is successful against Andres Gutierrez (35-1-1, 25 KOs) of Mexico and Santa Cruz beats Lancaster’s Chris Avalos (27-5, 20 KOs), the plan is for Mares and Santa Cruz to square off early next year somewhere in Los Angeles – perhaps at Staples Center.
Mares, of Hawaiian Gardens, and Santa Cruz, of Lincoln Heights, tangled in 2015 at Staples Center. Santa Cruz came away with a 12-round majority decision.
Mares and Santa Cruz hosted a news conference Tuesday promoting their doubleheader. Though he knows Gutierrez won’t be a cake walk, Mares didn’t mind talking about what an eventual victory over Santa Cruz would do for him.
“I mean, it would just mean everything because that’s a fight for redemption, a fight where I could prove again to the people that that was a fight I could have won, and that I could win,” Mares said. ”
Mares, 31, lost his featherweight title in 2013 when he was shockingly knocked out in the first round by Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez at StubHub. It was a devastating loss, one from which many don’t return to top form.
But when Mares (30-2-1, 15 KOs) defeated Jesus Cuellar of Argentina in December at Galen Center in his fifth fight post-Gonzalez, Mares was again a world champion. Santa Cruz was impressed.
“I respect Mares,” he said. “He’s a great fighter. What he did wrong, he tries to do it better and he did that against Cuellar. He showed it right there.”
To a degree, Mares reminds Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KOs) of himself.
“I’m the same way,” Santa Cruz said. “If a fighter comes to fight me one way, I could adjust to it; I fight him with a different style. Like against Carl Frampton. The first fight, I did wrong. I didn’t do what I had to do. And the second fight, I came, I adjusted and I did what I had to do to win.
“With Mares, whatever style he brings, I’m going to be ready for it.”
Santa Cruz lost his featherweight title to Frampton via majority decision in 2016 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Santa Cruz regained his title when he pounded out a majority decision over Frampton in a rematch in January at MGM Grand…

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