Bragging rights in Los Angeles are up for grabs once again when Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares face off on Saturday night at the Staples Center.
The first "battle for Los Angeles" took place last August and drew plenty of viewers, no doubt enticed by the two fighters' high-octane styles and a storyline perfect for boxing, two Mexican fighters duking it out for the right to call themselves king of a sprawling metropolis with a deep appreciation for the sport.
Santa Cruz ended up winning a thrilling contest by majority decision, surviving a hard-charging Mares, who threw everything he had into the fight.
With the first bout decided by a thin margin, and both boxers still in prime condition, this rematch is a no-brainer for all parties involved. Same venue, same summertime setting and the same belt—the WBA super world featherweight title—on the line.
Santa Cruz vs. Mares II Fight Info
When: Saturday, June 9 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center in Los Angeles
Live Stream: Showtime Anytime
Mares, despite coming so close to convincing the judges he was the better fighter the first time around, has real regrets about the way he fought. Per SportingNews.com's Steven Muehlhausen, Mares says he should have "boxed a whole different way."
At a full boil right from the start, Mares went straight after Santa Cruz, looking to punish him from the get go. Looking back, Mares felt this route didn't suit him well.
"I just wanted to tear his head off. I was going for a knockout when I’m not a big power puncher. Here we are, though, and I'm getting a second chance at a big fight and a big event. It’s all about taking advantage of this moment," said Mares per Muehlhausen.
The 32-year-old has only 15 knockouts in 34 career fights. He's much better off wearing down his opponents over the course of several rounds Since losing to Santa Cruz, Mares has earned a split-decision win over Jesus Cuellar, followed by an excellent showing in a technical-decision win over Andres Gutierrez.
Santa Cruz has been nothing if not entertaining since his win over Mares. He earned stoppages against Kiko Martinez and Chris Avalos, those two wins coming either side of a pair of epic duels with Carl Frampton. Santa Cruz lost the first fight and his WBA featherweight title against the Northern Irishman, only to come back and regain his belt with, you guessed it, a majority-decision victory.
Though Santa Cruz has been winning by the skin of his teeth in many of his recent bouts, the 29-year-old Mexican is one of the top fighters around. He can throw punches seemingly forever, and his long, lanky frame gives him a good reach advantage over many of his opponents, including Mares.
Per OddsShark (as of Thursday, June 7), Santa Cruz is a -500 favorite (bet $100 to win $20) over his opponent. That might seem a little steep considering the first match was close, but it likely owes to the fact that Santa Cruz has kept himself busier against quality opponents and is three years younger than Mares. He's also confident he knows how to beat Mares for a second time.
"You learn a lot from 12 rounds," he said, per the Los Angeles Times' Lance Pugmire. “You know everything he's going to do, what punch hurts him. We know how to fight him. My dad says I can stop him."
The winner of this bout could have an immediate opportunity for another high-profile contest. According to BoxingScene.com's Miguel Rivera, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman is looking to make the Santa Cruz-Mares winner a mandatory challenger to Gary Russell Jr., who recently defended his world featherweight title against Joseh Diaz.
Opportunities for another title may lie ahead for the winner, but first, it's all about winning an unofficial title: king of Los Angeles.