If Abner Maraes is expecting to face the same Leo Santa Cruz on June 9 from the Staples Center, he could be in trouble.
Santa Cruz will defend his featherweight title against Mares in the main event on Showtime. The card also features unbeaten super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo vs. Austin Trout.
Back in 2015 – and also at the Staples Center – it was Santa Cruz earning a majority decision and claiming the vacant title that night. The two threw over 2,000 punches that evening, but the champion believes he is a different fighter now.
“I’m going to try to go out there and give the fans a great fight like I always do. I feel like I’m in great condition right now. I feel a lot stronger and even my dad has told me this is as good as he’s seen me look,” said Santa Cruz, during a recent media session at the City of Angels Boxing gym. “I’ve learned a lot since the first Mares fight. I’ve learned how to adjust during a fight better. I’m a more complete fighter and it’s going to help me look even better this time.
“I’m still as motivated as ever. I have the same hunger as if this fight was for my first title. I never underestimate anyone and always give it my all in the gym. It’s no different heading into this one.”
The 29-year-old has posted a record of 3-1 since that win over Mares, besting Chris Avalos, Carl Frampton and Kiko Martinez around a loss to Frampton via decision in 2016.
And while he believes he has improved, Santa Cruz knows Mares is also going to be better than that first night in 2015. Mares is also coming off back-to-back wins over Andres Gutierrez and Jesus Cuellar.
“I think Abner has looked better in recent fights, but not so much that he looks unbeatable or anything. He’s shown some improvements but I feel I’ve gotten much better as well. It’s going to be a great fight and I’m going to come out victorious,” he said. “He says he’s going to box me more this time, but it’s easier to say that than do it. When you get in the ring and hear the fans, they make you want to brawl. Once you hear the crowd you want to entertain them. You love to hear the people scream.