Featherweight Santa Cruz wants to build on momentum of Mares victory

Leo Santa Cruz came to Las Vegas on Friday in a much different light than the last time he was here.

Santa Cruz is still basking in the glow of his sensational performance against featherweight star Abner Mares on Aug. 29 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where he won a 12-round majority decision. The fight, the main event of Premier Boxing Champions telecast on ESPN, did great ratings and gave Santa Cruz national exposure.

“It was a different feeling,” said Santa Cruz, who attended Saturday’s Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Andre Berto fight at the MGM Grand Garden. “It was so exciting, to have the crowd pulling for me and to give them a great fight.”

When Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 knockouts) fought on the undercard of Mayweather’s megafight with Manny Pacquiao on May 2, his performance in beating Jose Cayetano was lackluster and unfulfilling, even though he pitched a shutout with the three judges in gaining a 10-round unanimous decision.

“I knew I was capable of performing better, and that’s why the Mares fight was so important to me,” Santa Cruz said. “I felt I needed to prove to the fans and everyone in boxing that I was the fighter they thought I was.”

Mares went right after Santa Cruz in the first round and was looking to end the fight early. But Santa Cruz maintained his composure, survived the round and began to take charge.

“I knew he couldn’t last 12 rounds like that,” Santa Cruz said. “It was a matter of being patient with myself.”

His father and trainer, Jose Santa Cruz, said his biggest concern was his son getting head-butted by Mares. So he told him to fight more upright rather than crouch down to avoid Mares’ head.

“He kept his distance and avoided the head butt, and he did a good job,” the elder Santa Cruz said.

So what’s next? Santa Cruz has held the World Boxing Council’s super bantamweight belt. But he said his future is at 126 pounds, and there are several good fights to be made, including a rematch with Mares.

“We can do that if the money is right,” Santa Cruz said. “But I’m looking at trying to win titles, so I’d like to fight (Jesus) Cuellar or (Vasyl) Lomachenko or (Lee) Selby.”

Cuellar is the World Boxing Association regular featherweight champ, Lomachenko holds the World Boxing Organization belt and Selby is the International Boxing Federation champ. Regardless, Santa Cruz said he hopes to fight again no later than January.

“I want to stay busy,” he said. “I feel like I’ve got some momentum right now, and I want to take advantage of it.”

CANELO STAYS PUT — Mexican junior middleweight star Canelo Alvarez has re-signed with Golden Boy Promotions. Terms were not disclosed, but it is a multifight, multiyear extension.

“I am loyal, it’s part of my character, and that’s why I am extending my contract with Golden Boy Promotions,” said Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs), who will fight Miguel Cotto on Nov. 21 at Mandalay Bay. “Golden Boy Promotions knows how to build a fighter and elevate him to a world stage as they have done with me and continue to do with many others. I look forward to working with Golden Boy throughout my career.”

Said Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya: “Canelo Alvarez is no longer the future of the boxing — he is the present, and with a win on Nov. 21 against Miguel Cotto, he will solidify his status as the best in the business.

“It has been a privilege to promote him during his meteoric rise, and we now look forward to many more highlights in a career already filled with many of them.”

LAS VEGAS AMATEUR WINS — Las Vegas’ Jamie Mitchell advanced to the Olympic Trials after winning the gold medal Friday at 112 pounds in the U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials Qualifier II Tournament in Baltimore. Mitchell went 4-0 and defeated Giovanna Camacho of Colorado Springs, Colo., in the finals 3-0.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him: @stevecarprj.

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