Leo Santa Cruz vs. Miguel Flores, plus Brandon Figueroa, media conference call
Thank you everyone for joining us today for this media conference call that will feature three division world champion Leo Santa Cruz, exciting contender Miguel Flores and WBA Super Bantamweight Champion Brandon Figueroa, as they discuss their upcoming FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View showdowns taking place Saturday, November 23rd from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Leo and Miguel will go toe to toe for the WBA Super Featherweight title in the co-main event as Leo looks to win a world title in a fourth weight class, while Flores looks to pull the upset in his first title opportunity. Brandon Figueroa will make the first defense of his 122-pound title against the tough former world champion Julio Ceja as part of the Pay-Per-View that begins at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT.
This event is of course headlined by the highly anticipated rematch between boxing’s longest reigning heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder as he defends his title against the hard hitting Cuban slugger Luis Ortiz.
Tickets for this event which is promoted by BombZquad Promotions, TGB Promotions and Mayweather Promotions are on sale now and can be purchased at the mgmgrand.com and access.com. I also wanted to say thank you Leonard Ellerbe and the Mayweather Promotions team. Leonard’s been out running around the country promoting this event. So thank you Leonard.
All right. Now to start off the call today we have one of boxing’s brightest young starts joining us in Brandon Figueroa. He’s the WBA Super Bantamweight Champion having recently been elevated from interim champion. His record is 20-0, 15 KOs. He fights out of Weslaco, Texas. Brandon, can you give us some opening comments about how training camp is going?
Training camp has been going really good. I’ve been working through a couple injuries but it isn’t bad. As a fighter you’ve got to keep moving forward. I don’t want to pull out of the fight. I’ve just got to make it work, work around the injuries and as of right now, I’m still continuing working hard and I can’t wait. I can’t wait for November 23. It’s going to be a big opportunity for me, but not only for me, but both for my team and to represent my city.
Being 22 and having the world title, being the youngest champion at 122 pounds, it’s a privilege. So I’m definitely working hard towards fight night.
Have you really had any time at all throughout this entire process to look back and kind of be amazed at what you have been able to be accomplished in such a relatively short manner of time?
Yes of course. Actually for the last fight with Thurman and Pacquiao I went to go watch it because that’s the day my brother fought as well and I was sitting there ring side and I was like man, I can just imagine the day when I’m fighting here. I can’t wait and I thought it was going to be maybe to next year, along that line. Maybe like a couple more fights but, wow it was two more fights down and here I am fighting on pay-per-view.
Not only that but fighting a great fighter like Julio Ceja, it’s a blessing. Me climbing up the ranks and being elevated to the champion was amazing. I definitely do work hard. I’m grateful for everything that my team does. It’s amazing and I’m just blessed and I’m happy that I get to be in this position and that I get to fight, just the most important thing that a boxer loves to do is fight and showcase his skills and prove to everyone that they deserve to be in the ring. So definitely the blessings have been coming my way and I’m just grateful.
Are you going to look at Rigondeaux’s performance against Ceja or are you just really kind of following your own game plan and seeing how that fairs against Ceja?
You have to take everything into consideration. How are you going to outfight him? With Julio Ceja’s style, everything comes into play and obviously you always got to have a plan and obviously yes, I know Julio Ceja is going to come and brawl. Either I can box him or I can fight him inside. I’m an excellent fighter. I can fight. So it’s going to be interesting but I know I have more skills. I have the power definitely and watching his fight against Rigondeaux, I don’t know if he has stamina. So I’ve got to work the body, something that I’m used to doing, and that chin.
He’s been dropped plenty of times with that left hook so that’s something I’ve got to make sure I get to land. I know this isn’t going to be an easy fight but I’m definitely working really hard to make it easy and make fight night easy and even though it’s not going to be easy but, you always got to believe in yourself and plan it as if it’s going to be easy but. I know I’ve been on a knockout streak but I don’t plan on knocking him out. I’m just going to go in there and make sure that my plan goes well and that I get the W however I can.
Now that you’re at this title level, do you still want to maintain this rate of activity that you’ve been able to enjoy this year?
Yes sir, of course. The love that I have for the sport that, as soon as I fight, a week or two weeks later I’m back at the gym or I’m always running, always keeping in shape. Making sure my condition doesn’t get too poor. It’s just a lifestyle. At the end of the day it’s a lifestyle and I don’t go up too much on weight. I’m always making sure that I’m always say maybe 15 pounds on top of my weight class. So I think the difference is that, I’m always trying to be healthy. I’m always keeping healthy and making sure I’m not doing dangerous stuff outside of boxing and stuff like that where I can injure myself. So I’m always safe and keeping active in my career.
How much do you take from your brother Omar’ journey in this sport and use it to better your own game?
I always take my brother’s mistakes into consideration. He’s always told me, you’ve got to learn from my mistakes, whatever I did wrong and don’t commit them again. I know his last loss was big. Not only how it affected him but also me, seeing my brother lose like that. At the end of the day when we were talking to each other I was like, “Hey, you lost, you got beat but hey, you got to bounce back. You’ve got to get back to work, stop making excuses for yourself.”
That’s just how we are. He’s really hard on me, so I’m going to be hard on him and I know he’s going to bounce back. Right now he’s taking care of personal things but I tell him, brother I’m always going to be here for you, whenever you need a running partner or stuff like that. I always want to be there every step of the way, just how he wants to be there every step of the way in my career. So definitely, I learned a lot of things. He’s my mentor and he’s probably one of my biggest role models in my career and in my life. So I definitely look up to him and I can’t wait for him to come back and do big things again.
How big was it for you to be able to have your own homecoming fight in August, just to be able to carry on the family name?
I don’t really see it like that. It was just a little bump in the road for him, and this is my career, I can’t really pay too much into his career or get distracted – you have to push on. I never see it like that. I’m always focused. I always do what I got to do. Everything outside my career or my life, I push it to the side and I got to do what I got to do. That homecoming fight I had to take care of business and I never really cared about his loss or whatever. I know it’s just part of the boxing game and it’s just a way of life. So I just push it to the side. I did what I got to do and I take care of business homecoming night.
How soon after that fight did you know that you were going to land on this card or a card like this?
It was when I was actually at my sister’s wedding in Cancun. That’s when my dad told me that I had another fight lined up and as soon as I heard the news I was running over there in Cancun. I was trying to eat healthy. And I was already working out as soon as I heard the news. I couldn’t comfortably enjoy the vacation. And I couldn’t comfortably enjoy being over there so I had to get back to work as soon as I heard the news. It’s just like I said, it’s a lifestyle and as soon as I heard I was going to fight I was pumped up and ready to go.
Do you have a one year plan, two year plan, three plan? Do you have goals now that you’ll be fighting for the full title to eventually unify with the other champions?
Yes Sir of course. I will take all the champions into consideration into my choice especially after this fight, if everything goes well and I come out the W. I’m more than excited to fight the best fighters in my division and at the end of the day, it’s going to be up to my team. We never say no to any fight. My team makes a lot of things possible for us because we never say no. We always take the fight no matter what and I’m excited.
I’m excited for the future but I don’t just relax and think about the future. I just take it one fight at a time and whenever it’s time for me, I’m ready to go. I’m ready to fight these champions and I’m ready to really input my name into the boxing world and really showcase what I’m about.
Are you taking it as a goal to potentially try to stop Ceja, potentially even stop him faster than Rigondeaux?
I think it is a matter of me implementing my style into the fight. And I think once I get comfortable and once I study him and notice his little mistake, that’s where I’m really going to put the pressure on him. I know he’s going to come forward at all times so definitely we’re working on a lot of things. I’m the type of fighter that’s going to be on you all night. I’m going to be at the body, the head, the body, the head, throwing over 100 punches a round.
So definitely I trust in my style a lot. I believe in myself so much. I have so much confidence and I feel like my style works for any kind of fight. And I can box, I can brawl, I can brawl on the inside. I can box on the outside. So I have a lot of skillsets that can add to any fight. And so I’m excited for that and like I said, I can’t wait for fight night because it’s going to be my first time fighting in Vegas and not only that but at MGM Grand.
What’s your threshold for pain and how do you know the difference between injuries and normal pain? How do you know when something’s going to be too much in the ring and how do you gauge that?
I definitely just have to see when I’m in training, if I can push through it. I’ve pushed through many injuries in my amateur career. I pushed through many injuries over my past fights and I fought with a messed up shoulder. I’ve trained with a messed up foot, messed up shoulder. Mostly it was my right shoulder but thank God I got that pain away and it doesn’t bother me anymore. But little minor injuries that happen here and there that kind of slow down the training that I can’t spar or I can’t hit the bag or I can’t run because sometimes my Achilles hurts, stuff like that. But I feel like, I just got to keep praying to God to give me health and make sure that I’m healthy for my training sessions so that I can be really well prepared when fight night comes.
It’s just a matter of me pushing through it and once I see that the injury doesn’t go away, once I see that the pain is too much, then we’re going to have to either fight through it or we pull out but I’ve never pulled out of a fight due to an injury. So I know I can pull through it.
Is that something that’s happened with this fight where you’ve had to alter your training schedule?
This is nothing new. I’ve trained without sparring for some of my fights. I’ve trained without running sometimes because of my foot and on fight night everything works out. I know that sometimes I’m not really well prepared because of the injuries but at the end of the day, and I go out there and I fight my heart out and I get the W. And I know some people may say it’s kind of stupid to fight like that or it’s kind of risky but I feel like, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and it’s the challenge of my career.
And I know at the end of the day it’s going to make me stronger. I’m not underestimating Julio Ceja at all but this ain’t the first time that I’ve been training injured and I’ve just go to push through it mentally and I’ve got to be strong minded and I can’t let the injuries get the best of me.
Is it your main goal to clean out the junior featherweight division and do you have a time span from when you’d like to jump up to featherweight and has that been a thought running through your mind at all?
Yes, of course. Me and my team talk about it. They believe in me so much. As of right now I know that my body’s maturing. Every fight I’m getting stronger. I feel faster. The power’s coming in as my body matures. At this weight now I’m gaining more muscle mass. I feel my body is different and I feel it getting stronger. I just feel good. And I just feel good when I run as far as I feel stronger in general and I know that down the line that it’s going to be harder to make weight and I got to move up. But as of right now I think I can stay at 122 for a couple more fights.
Now we have on the call, the 27-year-old super featherweight contender Miguel Flores. Miguel’s got a record of 24-2 with 12 knockouts. Originally born in Mexico. He grew up and fights out of Houston, Texas. His quest for a world title has always been a two man journey. He lost his older brother Benjamin to a ring death only a few months before making his professional debut. But not only does he fight to pursue his own dreams but he also fights to continue his brother’s legacy.
He was originally scheduled to fight Santa Cruz back in February before an ankle injury forced him to withdrawal from the fight. He returned to the ring with a knockout win in June and is now ready to challenge for his first world title. Miguel, could you please make some opening comments about training and how you feel right now?
Hey. How you guys doing? Thank you for having me on. Training’s been great. I guess when you’re at this level there are no easy days. There are no easy fights. So training’s been great. We’ve been grinding. We know we have a tough, tough task in front of us in Santa Cruz but I think it’s all about timing and I think it’s my time now. I’m definitely going to do my best to take advantage of the opportunity. Like I said before, I know people think I don’t deserve this fight but I know what I deserve. I know I’ve been grinding hard since I was a kid at the gym and after we give a great, great fight, people are going to appreciate this fight.
Your late brother Benjamin was a boxer and you promised him that you would become a world champion. Do you feel that this fight is destiny fighting for a world title now?
It definitely is. It’s about 10 years after his passing and the opportunity is finally here. It’s crazy because my brother once took a picture with the WBA title. At the time the fighter that had it was Chris John and he borrowed his belt and took a picture with it. Ten years later, I have the opportunity to fight for that belt and become world champion. So, like I said, it’s destiny. Obviously, this last fight, when we were scheduled to fight this last time, unfortunately, I had that injury, but it’s destiny. Some things are just meant to happen, and I know Leo is a great fighter, but we’re going to put up a great fight, two Mexicans, and it’s nothing but respect for him outside the ring, but once we get in the ring, I’m definitely going to try and knock him out.
Did the time off from the injury help in any way? Were you able to study Leo a little more?
Obviously, I did. I’ve always said that that’s the beauty of boxing. Every day you go to the gym, every day that passes by, you’re adding knowledge. You’re getting better. You’re working on new things. So obviously I saw his fight with Rafael Rivera. It was a great fight, toe to toe, and obviously there’s things that I saw there that I can do.
I want to say I’m definitely more prepared than I was the first time. I can implement my game plan a little more. Obviously, there’s things he does great, but I think I can offset those things and use them to my advantage.
Do you feel like maybe this time you’re at a much more comfortable weight than you would have fighting at featherweight?
Yes, a lot of people asked me, why this fight at 130? Well, I’m not gonna lie, he’s calling the shots right now. He wants it at 130, and there’s no reason why I wouldn’t go up to 130 to fight him. That just means I have four extra pounds. The just means I can eat steak all the way to the weigh in.
So it’s just going to be a little more comfortable. Making weight is never easy. That’s one thing people have to realize, but having those extra pounds of cushion, is going to give me, I think, an advantage.
Given that fact, we know he started off at 118, 122, 126, and obviously now 130, that’s four divisions. Some fighters they don’t adapt and their power doesn’t carry with them. So, like I said, it’s all about timing, and I think all those little things, the additional weight, him not being too active, and just him being over 30. They’re all going to play to my advantage.
You fought in June, does that comeback fight from injury, did that kind of help maybe shake off the cobwebs a little bit and make you believe or get a little bit more confidence in getting this fight against Santa Cruz?
Yes, obviously it did. I remember right when I was going to walk out for that fight, I told myself if I wanted that fight again, I got to treat this fight like if it was a big fight at a big stage, and I did just that. I shook off some ring rust. And I had a veteran opponent who could take a punch, but I ultimately got the six round knockout and like I said, it’s just experience. There’s little things I worked on in there that I want to implement in this fight, and I did them. So I’m more confident now. And obviously getting knockouts is always a little confidence booster, so I’m feeling great.
Even though people say we’re moving up in weight, that fight was at 128. So this being at 130 is not going to be a new thing to me.
Is there anything that’s been different about this training camp as the last training camp that you had preparing for Leo Santa Cruz?
Obviously we try to pick up the intensity every training camp, but we’re not doing anything crazy. We’ve been training at the high level like this for years. I’ve been training. It’s not like I’m a lazy guy and, okay, I got to get up for this fight. No, I’m a fighter who was trained how you’re supposed to always be in shape.
So I’m not doing anything crazy like running 25 miles every day. Because I’ve always trained hard my entire life. Like I said, we do pick up the intensity. We do want to stay a little bit more focused because there’s a bigger opportunity, but everything remains the same, hard work and dedication is what we’re putting in in the gym.
Does it feel more satisfying that you have the opportunity to disrupt Leo’s future plans for potential big fights including Gervonta Davis?
Every time I hear that they’re planning on Gervonta Davis and Leo Santa Cruz Pay-Per-View fight for next year, or Leo Santa Cruz trying to fight Gary Russell, I love hearing stuff.
I want him thinking about stuff like that. I hope he’s thinking about stuff like that. Because guess what? I wake up in the morning, I only got one person to think of. I look at my kids, give them a kiss, and then right away I think about Leo Santa Cruz and that’s the only fighter I’m thinking of.
If he’s thinking about other fights, that’s great for me. Like I said before, I know he’s a professional. So I hope he’s not looking past me. I know he’s doing his job. He has a great team with his dad and his brothers. So I know they’re doing their job but if they’re looking past me, they’re going to be in for a tough night.
When you suffered the injury, what kind of assurances were in place that an opportunity like this was going to come along, whether rescheduling with Leo or just another title opportunity in general?
I’ve always said I have a great team and I feel right at home with them because even after the injury, my manager called me. He told me, recover, don’t rush anything, get well from that foot, and more opportunities will come.
I fought in June. Obviously, I knew I have to win this fight because if I lose, everything goes downhill. So I won the fight and right away I got a call and they’re, like, this fight may be out there, keep it to yourself, stay quiet, just keep training and we’re going to do our best to get you this fight.
And so I already knew it could possibly still happen. So you could say I’ve had about a year of training camp for Leo Santa Cruz. Because ever since that first fight with him was announced, now he’s always been in my mind, and I’ve always been thinking and dreaming of that fight, of that ring walk against him.
Back in 2017 you had two controversial, or two setbacks I would say, one against Chris Avalos, the other against Dat Nguyen. What have you learned from those two fights, and how was that prepared you for this moment today?
There’s a saying that you gain more from a loss than if you’re always winning, and I think with that Nguyen fight, and I’ve always said it, I never have any excuse. He beat me fair and square. There’s obviously things I rather not talk about that I know I won’t ever do again, if that happens in a match, or at weigh-in or something like that. I know there’s things that I won’t do, and I won’t accept, but at the end of the day I took the fight, and he beat me.
Do I think he’s a better fighter than me overall? No, I don’t think so. He was a better fighter that night, but I learned just to stay focused throughout the fight and never underestimate anyone. Not that I underestimated him, but just I got to stay focused throughout the whole 10, 12 rounds that I’m fighting.
Obviously with the Chris Avalos fight, I don’t even take that as a loss. A lot of people that are boxing fans or that really follow the sport know what happened in that fight. I felt like I was dominating the fight. I had dropped Avalos.
The type of grueling fight that it was, we unfortunately, had three cuts on us and, the ref made a bad call. That was his call. I can’t do anything about it, but I took that last more, like, you just got to live to fight another day. I felt like right when Avalos got the fight with Leo, I was like, man, that’s my fight, that’s my opportunity. So like I said, I’ve been thinking about Leo Santa Cruz for years now, and finally this moment is here, and I’m planning to take full advantage of it.
All right. Now on the line, we have one of boxing’s most accomplished and exciting stars today. The three-division world champion Leo Santa Cruz. Originally born in Mexico, now representing Los Angeles, Leo has racked up a record of 36-1-1 with 19 knockouts, on his way to winning titles at 118 pounds, 122, and 126 pounds.
Now he looks to become a four-division champion on November 23 and steal the show with his fan friendly style in the co-main event on pay-per-view. Leo, can you please make some opening comments and tell everyone how you’re preparing for the Flores fights.
Leo Santa Cruz
Hello to everyone. My training has been going great. I just finished sparring10 rounds. I feel great, I feel strong and I’m training for this fight like I train for all my fights, really hard. I’m more focused because Miguel Flores is a tough fighter, and I know he’s going to come with everything because this is his opportunity for a world title and it’s going to be a tough fight.
I know people are saying I should win, but every fighter is strong. Miguel Flores is a strong fighter, and I know it’s going to be a great fight and whatever he wants to bring, that’s what we’re going to match.
Can you talk about if you felt the need to move up because of your body, and if you think a Gervonta Davis fight is still on the horizon?
L. Santa Cruz
Yeah, I moved up some weight because I had the opportunity. I had been entertaining that maybe I wanted to unify it against. And I said if those fights can’t happen, I want more titles at new weight classes.
The opportunity came as Davis moved up in weight, and the title that’s right there was vacant. So I was offered to fight for the fight, and I said yes. The fans are going to be happy, and they’re going to realize that Miguel is a lot better than they think. He’s a good fighter that comes and fights. It’s going to be great fight.
At the end of the day it’s just who wants it more. If it’s Miguel’s turn, if it’s his opportunity, I’ll be more than happy, for him to win, but I’m training really hard, and I want that title more than anything. I want to be a four division world champion.
You’re no stranger to moving up in weight, but what’s been different about maybe making the move from 126 to 130 as compared to your previous attempts to move up in other weight classes in the past?
L. Santa Cruz
So what made me change to 130 is that I have to work more on my power. I have to work for the power punches. Being at this weight will help me bring more power into sparring and into the fight, because I won’t be as focused on cutting weight.
I’ve been sparring with guys that weigh 140. That way when I go out there against the strongest 130-pound fighters, I’ll still win the same and there won’t be any surprises.
Was the idea of moving up to 130 on the table for this year, or even early this year regardless of what Gervonta Davis was going to do? Or would you still have managed to just find a way to still fight at 126 pounds, despite maybe not necessarily getting those big fights that you wanted?
L. Santa Cruz
My dream was to be a four division world champion. I wanted to win the title so when I retire, I’m remembered as one of the only fighters that wins a fourth title, in four divisions. Not a lot of people do that. So, that was my dream. I have the opportunity. So I’m going to go for it and hopefully everything goes good.
People ask me, and I say, I don’t know what’s going to happen that day on November 23. But if I win, I want the big fights. I want to get Gervonta Davis, Gary Russell Jr and I want the big name that people will want me to fight.
For the training for this fight, is there any difference other than training at a heavier weight, or do you just kind of pick-up from where you left off when you were previously training for the fight that was scheduled earlier this year?
L. Santa Cruz
Yeah, I’ve been training the same. I don’t think there’s going to be a big training shift. We always prepare to be at our very best and give the fans a fun show.
The only thing we can do more in is our power. That’s the only thing different that we have been doing. Focusing more on our power and strengthening everything.
Now I’m now sparring with bigger guys than me. So, we go up there and we don’t feel the difference. So that’s going to be a big help because I don’t need to adjust to fighting bigger opponents.
Does it add any dynamics fighting on a flash pay-per-view?
L. Santa Cruz
I don’t care where I fight, as long as I fight. I don’t care if I’m the main event, I’m mainly here to go out and there and just give a great fight. No matter if I’m main event or co-main even, I’m still going to go out there and fight the same. I’m happy to be on the card with Dentay Wilder who is a great fighter.
I’m excited to go out there and fight against Miguel Flores. He’s a good fighter too, and I know he’s going to bring everything, and it’ll be a great fight. Hopefully it will be a great night from start to finish.
How easy or how difficult has it been to keep your focus on Miguel Flores who you’re heavily favored to beat?
L. Santa Cruz
There’s a lot of pressure on me because I’m favored, but I never see myself like that. I never see myself as a favorite because anything could happen in a fight.
My only focus is on the fight I’m going to have on November 23. Every time I fight they’re asking me about other opponents. You never know what’s going to happen in this fight. And I could say, I want this fight next, but I don’t know what’s going to happen in this fight.
When I get the win, now we can talk about the other fights. Because Flores is a good fighter, and I think it’s going to be a great fight, so first we’re going to focus on this fight, and then we’ll talk about the other ones.
What do you see in Miguel Flores? What are the things about him that impress you, or things that you need to prepare for?
L. Santa Cruz
He comes forward throwing a lot of punches and he work the body well. He’s throwing a lot of punches, combinations, and he likes to control the pace like I do. He tries to entertain the fans like I do, and we’re going to make a great fight. He’s going to just keep on coming forward and one of the punches could land and he could hurt me. I just know it’s going to be a good fight, and we are going to please the fans, and we’re gonna go out there and just give it our all.
Did you feel any different at this weight when working on your power?
L. Santa Cruz
I feel better, a lot better at this weight. Some past fights, I was feeling a little bit more tired. So now I’m a lot stronger. Even my sparring partners, they say that I’m hitting a lot stronger and that I’ve been better than in the past. I’ve been working extremely hard and I’m not taking Miguel Flores lightly. I know he’s a complete opponent and that he could surprise us. So I’m going to focus on him and do everything right in camp. I’m doing everything right, and I’m doing everything that my team asks of me.
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