Leo Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) will return to the ring after eight months away on Saturday when he puts his WBA super world featherweight championship on the line against late-replacement Rafael Rivera (26-2-2, 17 KOs).
Santa Cruz was originally set to face Miguel Flores, but the latter suffered an ankle injury last month and had to pull out of the fight, per ESPN.com's Dan Rafael.
The 30-year-old Santa Cruz has established himself as a must-see fighter and one of the best featherweights in the world. He loves to force the action and is willing to take punches if it means ripping off a devastating combination on his opponent.
Rivera, 24, stands little chance in this one. He's only had a couple weeks to prepare, and his two losses in his career have come against arguably the toughest guys he's faced. Look for "El Terremoto" to put on a show in front of what should be a fantastic hometown crowd at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Santa Cruz vs. Rivera Fight Info
When: Saturday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles
Live Stream: FoxSportsGo
Odds: Santa Cruz -10000 (bet $10,000 to win $100), Rivera +1600 (bet $100 to win $1600)
This will be Santa Cruz's third defense of his WBA title since he lost the belt to Carl Frampton via majority decision in July 2016.
He immediately won the title back in a thrilling rematch with Frampton, then he took care of Chris Avalos with a KO win before meeting crosstown rival Abner Mares for the second time, earning a unanimous-decision win in a nonstop, action-packed bout.
With just one title in the featherweight division, Santa Cruz should be on the hunt for more. This bout with Rivera will likely serve as a tuneup fight for a potential unification clash. Last month, Santa Cruz told RingTV.com's Mike Coppinger he's eyeing a bout with WBC world titleholder Gary Russell Jr.
"A lot of people consider Gary Russell one of the best in the division, maybe the best, maybe even better than me," said, Santa Cruz, per Coppinger "I think it could be the best fight that could happen."
According to sources for Coppinger, Russell Jr. and Frampton are potential opponents for Santa Cruz later this calendar year.
Either fight would be welcome news for boxing fans. A rubber match with Frampton would give the winner ultimate bragging rights, while a fight with Russell Jr. would figure to be a crowd-pleaser. Santa Cruz is likely hoping he can make quick work of Rivera on Saturday night so that he can get down to the business of setting up the bouts everyone wants to see.
Odds are courtesy of OddsShark and updated as of Thursday, Feb. 14, at 7 a.m. ET.