If you ask most hardcore fight fans who the most exciting fighters in the sport are, Leo "Teremoto" Santa Cruz's (25-0-1, 15 KO) name will likely be mentioned. Unfortunately, if you ask non-hardcore fight fans who Santa Cruz is, you'll probably get a shrug of the shoulders.
Such is the plight of a talented but lesser-known champion in a lower weight class. The reigning WBC super bantamweight champion will defend his title against veteran contender and former IBF super flyweight champion Cristian Mijares (45-7-2, 24 KO) on Saturday night.
The fight will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as part of the undercard for the Saul "Canelo" Alvarez vs. Alfredo Angulo bout.
The undefeated, 25-year-old champion from Huetamo, Michoacan de Ocampo, Mexico is looking for his second straight successful defense of the title since winning it in Aug. 2013.
Mijares has won two fights in a row since losing to Victor Terrazas in April 2013. Terrazas was the man Santa Cruz defeated to win the WBC title. The veteran could give Santa Cruz a test, but the champion may be taking a step toward cleaning out another division. He conquered the bantamweight division before moving up in 2012.
Here's how you can catch the action.
When: Saturday, March 8 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: MGM Grand in Las Vegas
TV: Showtime Pay-Per-View
The Book on Santa Cruz
Fighting at the MGM Grand on a major card is nothing new for Santa Cruz. This will be his third fight at Las Vegas' premier venue. He appeared on the undercard of the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. bout in September 2012. He also fought on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero card in May 2013.
At some point, Santa Cruz would like to headline a card himself.
The chances are slim that a super bantamweight will ever get that opportunity, but as Santa Cruz gets older, moving up could be a possibility. If he does that and keeps winning, he could one day have his day in the Vegas sun—provided he finds the right opponent.
Santa Cruz isn't the most charismatic figure. He aims to please with his performances, but he's not the guy you'll find doing a lot of the talking that often boosts a fighter's popularity.
When Santa Cruz faces Mijares, he'll be clashing with a wily veteran some think could be past his prime. Santa Cruz isn't necessarily looking past Mijares, but he does appear to have his ducks in a row after he presumably beats the 32-year-old veteran.
Santa Cruz told Miguel Maravilla of FightNews.com:
Hopefully everything goes good this fight. We win there is Frampton, Quigg, Kiko Martinez, and Rigondeaux right now. Rigo is with Top Rank. Everyone wants that fight but first we can fight Frampton or Quigg. They have the same style as me, they give the fans what they want. And then I’ll take on Rigondeaux next year.
All three of those fights make hardcore fight fans excited, but they probably won't move the needle for the casual fan. Before he can get on to that business, he must handle Mijares on Saturday.
The Book on Mijares
Mijares' professional career started when he was just 15 years old. He is a natural flyweight who has ascended in weight as he's gotten older.
He has great ring presence and good boxing skill.
But as Bleacher Report's Briggs Seekins mentions, Mijares has a problem with size and explosiveness. Seekins writes:
Cristian Mijares has had problems with opponents who can get off first against him. This was very apparent in 2009 when he was shellacked by Vic Darchinyan.
That's going to be a problem for him against Santa Cruz, who is a bigger, younger and far fresher opponent.
Against Santa Cruz, he'll be dealing with both of those elements in abundance. He'll have a steep hill to climb to pull off the upset.
This could be a dangerous fight for Mijares. The style and physical traits don't match up well for him. It looks like a fight that will see him take some punishment from a hard and accurate puncher in Santa Cruz.
He was already the victim of a brutal KO at the hands of Vic Darchinyan. A fighter shouldn't take too many beatings on that level.
Hopefully, the referee and corner are well in tune and stop this bout before it gets too ugly. Santa Cruz will win by fifth-round TKO.
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