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Santa Cruz vs. Avalos & Mares vs. Gutierrez on Oct.14

Abner Mares Leo Santa Cruz

By Dan Ambrose: In an attempt to build interest in an eventual rematch between them, WBA Super World featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares will be fighting on the same card but in separate fights on October 14 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Team Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KOs) wants him to take a tune-up fight against the struggling non-contender Chris Avalos (27-5, 20 KOs) in the main event on October 14 on the StubHub card. Santa Cruz vs. Avalos is hardly a headliner quality fight.

It’s more like a stay busy fight. Nonetheless, we just saw Floyd Mayweather Jr. sell a mismatch against Conor McGregor and the boxing public eagerly scooped it up in gladly purchasing the farce. In comparison, Santa Cruz vs. Avalos is a great fight. Avalos at least knows how to fight. Santa Cruz won’t have to carry Avalos the way that Mayweather seemingly did against McGregor. Santa Cruz needs to look good though for him to drum up interest in a needless rematch against Mares. About the only thing Santa Cruz can accomplish in beating Avalos is to see if he can outdo Carl Frampton’s 5th round knockout of him. It would look good if Santa Cruz would knockout Avalos before the 5th round to show that he’s better than Frampton.

If Mares and Santa Cruz both win their respective fights on October 14, then the two of them will fight each other in a rematch next year. It would nicer if both of them would fight someone good before they face each other. That’s not a knock on the talent of the recently knocked out Avalos or Gutierrez, but there are far better fighters in the division than those 2 guys. Gutierrez recently lost to 35-year-old Cristian Mijares by a 12 round majority decision last year on June 4, 2016. Mijares is the only quality fighter on Gutierrez’s entire 8-year resume at the pro level. Gutierrez’s 35-1-1 consists primarily of victories over fluff opposition instead of quality guys.

Frampton is the guy that Santa Cruz should be fighting again, not Mares. Santa Cruz had all he could handle from Frampton in their 2 fights, and both of them were very close fights. Santa Cruz’s fight against Mares wasn’t close in 2015. It was an easy win for Santa Cruz.

In the co-feature bout on the Santa Cruz-Avalos card, Mares (30-2-1, 15 KOs) will be defending his WBA World featherweight title against #7 WBC Andres Gutierrez (35-1-1, 25 KOs). Gutierrez, 24, was recently scheduled to fight Carl Frampton in July in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but he suffered an injury, causing the fight to be cancelled. Hopefully, we don’t see the same thing happen with his fight against Mares.

Mares lost to Santa Cruz 2 years ago by a 12 round majority decision on August 29, 2015. Mares has since beaten Jesus Andres Cuellar by a 12-round split decision to win the WBA (regular) 126 lb. on December 10, 2016. The 31-year-old Abner has fought just 1 time in the last 2 years. That’s not exactly ideal if you want to stay sharp. Santa Cruz, 29, has been out of the ring for the last 7 months since beating Carl Frampton by a 12 round majority decision in their rematch on January 28 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Santa Cruz had previously lost a controversial 12 round majority decision to Frampton in their previous fight on July 30, 2016 at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York. The crowd was heavily in Frampton’s favor despite him coming from Northern Ireland and Santa Cruz being the American. The management for Frampton had done a great job in choosing to stage the fight with Santa Cruz in New York, where the crowd would favor him rather than Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz vs. Mares is a good fight. It’s not a great one though. It’s one of those types of fights where it’s not really needed in terms of clearing up controversy. Santa Cruz clearly beat Mares in their fight in August 2015. The rematch between them is more for entertainment purposes than anything. Santa Cruz was far better than Mares. The way that Santa Cruz beat Mares, you could tell that he’ll always beat him. The rematch is definitely not needed. It’s comparable to Manny Pacquiao fighting Tim Bradley for the third time. The third fight was totally unnecessary, as Pacquiao had already established he was the better fighter than Bradley. It’s the same thing with the Santa Cruz vs. Mares rematch.

Santa Cruz is leagues better than Mares. It’ll be a fun fight to watch though. Hopefully, Santa Cruz uses a different game plan this time against Mares, being that it was somewhat boring to watch Santa Cruz jabbing Mares from the outside and boxing him for 12 rounds instead of slugging it out with him. Santa Cruz is usually a slugger, but he changed his tactics for the Mares fight and boxed him from the outside. The 5’7 ½” Santa Cruz used his 3 inch height advantage over the 5’4 ½” Mares to win an easy 12 round decision. Mares started his career out as a bantamweight, and he doesn’t have a lot of size for the featherweight division. He was definitely not tall enough to deal with Santa Cruz’s long reach when he decided to fight him at a distance. Mares did a good job of beating Cuellar by a 12 round split decision last December to become the WBA World featherweight champion, but he didn’t have to take any of the really fighters to win that title.

Mares would have had his hands full if he had to fight Gary Russell Jr., Oscar Valdez, Scott Quigg, Joseph Diaz Jr. or Carl Frampton for the WBA title instead of the badly flawed Cuellar. It’s possible that Mares could beat some of those fighters, but it’s doubtful that he would beat them all. Russell Jr. would be a tough pill for Mares to swallow, as would Frampton and Quigg. Those guys have a lot of different skills that they bring to the table that would have made it tough on Mares to beat them.

Avalos isn’t ranked in the top 15 by any of the 4 sanctioning bodies, and he’s lost 2 out of his last 3 fights. Usually, champions make voluntary defenses against fringe contenders ranked in the top 15, but Santa Cruz is choosing a 2nd tier guy to fight. Avalos was recently knocked out by Mark Magsayo in 6 rounds last year on April 23, and before that, he was knocked out by Oscar Valdez in the 5th round on September 11, 2015. Avalos was also knocked out by Carl Frampton in round rounds on February 28, 2015. As you can see, Santa Cruz isn’t taking any chances with his title defense on October 14 by selecting Avalos to fight instead of one of the contenders in the WBA’s top 15 rankings. There’s no word whether the World Boxing Association will have any issues sanctioning the title defense for Santa Cruz against Avalos. It’s too bad Santa Cruz isn’t at least giving one of the WBA’s top 15 contenders a shot at his title. It’s hard work getting ranked. It’s to be disappointing to see a champion choose from the 2nd tier to make a title defense.

The way that Mares and Santa Cruz are matched up with weak opponents for the October 14 card, they can’t help but to look good in these 2 showcase fights. If they struggle against the likes of Avalos and Gutierrez, then it would be a case of ring rust getting to them. Santa Cruz and Mares need to be more active.


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