Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Maraes meet for a second time this Saturday night live on Showtime from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Back in 2015, Santa Cruz handed Mares a decision loss, winning the vacant WBA super featherweight title in the process in the very same building as the rematch.
“The first fight was a really good one, but I think this one will be even better. Mares is a great fighter with a great trainer in Robert Garcia, and that’s the kind of challenge I want. We both want to give the fans great fights,” Santa Cruz said. “I’ve learned a lot from my last few fights. I’m not coming in here worried about losing, I just worry about giving the fans a great show. If Mares is better than me that night, then he will win. But I’ve worked too hard and I’m going to be at my peak on Saturday night.
“I think that Mares has gotten a lot better. Robert Garcia is a trainer who has brought him up to a different level. He’s made a lot of improvements. I learned from the Frampton fights and my dad is a good trainer too. It’s even all the way around and it’s going to be a great fight.”
Since that win, Santa Cruz has scored back-to-back wins over Chris Avalos and avenged his lone career loss with a win vs. Carl Frampton to claim back the belt in 2017.
“I think the winner of this fight will be number one in this division. Gary Russell Jr. is a great fighter and I definitely want a rematch of our amateur fight. But me and Abner put a lot of pressure on our opponents and I don’t think Gary would like the pressure from either of us,” Santa Cruz said. “My team motivates me every day in the gym. They’re right next to me running every day towards the same goal. That’s what I love about training camp because it makes me work even harder.”
Mares, meanwhile, has pushed his record to 31-2-1 with victories over Jesus Cuellar and Andres Gutierrez, the latter of which was a defense of the WBA regular featherweight belt.
“I could stand up here and tell you what I’m going to do Saturday, but you’ve seen the first fight. You know how exciting the first fight was. I have even more to prove and I’m going to leave it all on the line this time,” Mares said. “This is going to be an exciting fight. I know Leo has matured as an athlete and fighter by fighting Frampton twice. But if you look at my last couple of performances, they speak for themselves. I think both of us are seasoned and better fighters right now.
“There’s no doubt that the winner of this fight is number one in this division. There’s some great fighters at featherweight, but we’re fighting for the top spot in this division.”
The card also features Jermell Charlo defending his super welterweight belt vs. Austin Trout, beginning at 10 p.m. ET.