On the road to cementing his legacy as boxing's top featherweight in recent years, Leo Santa Cruz's first WBA "Super" 126-pound title defense of 2019 hit a minor roadblock.
For weeks, Santa Cruz had been preparing for Miguel Flores, but after Flores went down with an injury, Mexican contender Rafael Rivera stepped in to fight Santa Cruz on February 16. It may not be everyone's cup of tea when it comes to big featherweight title matches, but it does keep Santa Cruz busy while he waits for a potential unification fight down the road.
After regaining the WBA title in 2017, Santa Cruz set his sights on a number of big fights. He may have gotten one of them in the form of a rematch against Abner Mares last summer, but the one major fight Santa Cruz has yet to get is one against WBC champion Gary Russell Jr. Until the time arrives for Santa Cruz to get his long-awaited unification fights, he will have to settle for less than stellar fights beforehand.
That isn't to say Rivera has no chance of winning the fight. After all, time and time again, the sport of boxing has seen many upsets come in various forms, so completely discrediting Rivera's chances of winning would be unfair. Rivera does own a quality win over Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and has fought former title challenger Joseph Diaz Jr. in 2017. Rivera is also younger and at 24 years old, the Mexican challenger could be coming on to his own as a professional boxer and could pull off the upset, however unlikely it may be.
Fox will televise the card from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and the televised portion of the event will also feature a welterweight matchup between Omar Figueroa Jr. and Jose Molina Jr. That fight could potentially have the makings of a tremendous slugfest at 147 pounds. Also on the Fox-televised card is a pair of fights involving Hugo Centeno Jr. and 2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas competing in separate bouts.
But of course, those that will only be tuning into the card on television will not be able to fully witness what the entire card has to offer. With its quadruple-header of fights set, there are still a couple of fights of great interest for fans that will be at the Microsoft Theater.
The first one is an IBF super bantamweight title eliminator between former champion Ryosuke Iwasa and Mexican contender Cesar Juarez. The winner of this fight becomes the mandatory challenger to TJ Doheny's title.
For Iwasa, the fight is one step away from getting a rematch against the Irish champion after Doheny took the title away from Iwasa last August in Japan. Iwasa has remained adamant about getting a rematch and will look to get back into title contention with a win over Juarez.
As for Juarez, he has fought several top names in the sport from Nonito Donaire to Isaac Dogboe, but has yet to win a world title. After his latest loss against Dogboe in January 2018, Juarez returned to the top five in the IBF rankings with three straight victories.
Lastly, the IBF minimumweight title will once again be on the line in Los Angeles as newly-crowned champion Carlos Licona defends his title against
Below is the full card:
- Leo Santa Cruz vs. Rafael Rivera: WBA "Super" Featherweight title
- Omar Figueroa Jr. vs. John Molina Jr.
- Hugo Centeno Jr. vs. Oscar Cortes
- Karlos Balderas vs. Jose Cen Torres
- Donnie Marshall vs. Sebastian Fundora
- Ivan Redkach vs. Tyrone Harris
- Carlos Licona vs. DeeJay Kriel: IBF Minimumweight Title
- Cesar Juarez vs. Ryosuke Iwasa: IBF Super Bantamweight Title Eliminator
- Marlon Tapales vs. Fernando Vargas Parra
- Neri Ariel Cruz Romero vs. Thomas Smith
- Julian Rodarte vs. Miguel Angel Mendoza
- Jerry Perez vs. Ivan Leon Benitez
- Shon Mondragon vs. Julio Martinez
Tale of the Tape:
Leo Santa Cruz:
Record: 35-1-1 (19 KO)
Notable Fights: Carl Frampton, Abner Mares, Alberto Guevara
Titles Won: WBA "Super" Featherweight, WBC Diamond, WBC Super Bantamweight, IBF Bantamweight titles
Record: 26-2-2 (17 KO)
Notable Fights: Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Joseph Diaz Jr.
Titles Won: WBC FECARBOX Featherweight title