Leo Santa Cruz and Victor Zaleta will compete for Santa Cruz's IBF bantamweight title on the undercard of Abner Mares vs. Anselmo Moreno on Saturday night. Both men hope to be a part of the featured attraction in the near future.
The champion obviously has the best shot at getting there right now, but an upset could launch Zaleta into a position to challenge the winner of Mares-Moreno, or even Nonito Donaire.
Santa Cruz brings a record of 21-0-1 with 12 KOs and Zaleta is 20-2-1 with 10 KOs. The latter's most recent bout was a draw with Juan Jose Montes. It was a competitive bout, but I felt Montes should have been awarded the decision.
He is now moving up to bantamweight to challenge for Santa Cruz's title.
Santa Cruz demolished the bantamweight gate keeper, AKA Eric Morel, with a fifth-round KO. He looks a little better every time I see him.
Here's how you can catch this bout:
When: Saturday, November 10, 10 PM ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
Live Stream: Showtime Anytime (Pay Service)
The Book on Santa Cruz
Tale of the Tape - (per BoxRec.com)
Weight: 117 lbs. vs. Eric Morel in September
Santa Cruz is known for his relentless body punching. For such a young fighter, he already understands the importance of banging the body early in fights. He throws all of his punches with great leverage and with intentions to hurt.
He wastes no punches and very little energy in general.
Santa Cruz keeps his guard high, but he opens up to fire combinations to the body and head. He's most comfortable fighting in close where he can feel and time his opponents.
Take a look at Santa Cruz in action against Vusi Malinga.
He doesn't possess great foot speed. Fighting a fleet-footed fighter could present him an issue. He reminds me of a more refined and technically sound version of Antonio Margarito—sans the illegal gloves.
Santa Cruz doesn't have the same power, but his plodding nature is similar to Margarito's. He has the training and boxing I.Q. to overcome this in most instances, but a quick and skilled boxer would have success against him.
Santa Cruz won't have to look for Zaleta. He comes forward all the time and this style actually plays right into his hands.
As a stationary target, Zaleta will be there for Santa Cruz to land. He still can't allow himself to become careless, though, and must take the opportunities that Zaleta presents.
The Book on Zaleta
Tale of the Tape - (per BoxRec.com)
Weight: 113 lbs. vs. Juan Jose Montes in June
He comes forward constantly—which can be a good and bad thing. He applies a lot of pressure on opponents, and if a fighter doesn't handle that well, Zaleta can operate in his comfort zone.
At flyweight he was able to impose himself physically on opponents with his size and length. He also showed a solid chin at the flyweight level, but we never know if that will translate when a fighter moves up in weight.
His beard enables him to continually apply pressure—even though he isn't expressly hard to hit.
Although he likes to come straight forward, he doesn't pack a big punch. This was the case at flyweight, so one would have to expect that things would remain the same at bantamweight.
Zaleta's head movement isn't very good, and as you can see in this video from his fight with Omar Narvaez, he is fairly easy to slip and counter against.
Narvaez routinely got under Zaleta's length to counter him and he also beat him to the punch repeatedly.
Who will win this fight?
This is going to be a very difficult fight for Zaleta to win. He doesn't have the home run punch to change the game with one shot, and at bantamweight his normal size advantage isn't there either.
Working the jab and attempting to tie Santa Cruz up on the inside is his best strategy. He could possibly frustrate and tire his opponent with these tactics, but a victory for him is far-fetched.
Santa Cruz should win this fight easily. I can't see it going the distance as Zaleta has nothing that will make Santa Cruz respect his power. He doesn't possess a reach, speed or quickness edge either.
Look for a TKO win for Santa Cruz between the fifth and seventh round.
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