By Francisco Salazar
If one were to look for an ‘off’ button on Leo Santa Cruz, it would probably take a long time to locate it.
When Santa Cruz steps inside the ring, the 25 year old throws an abundant amount of punches that opponents wonder if they are facing two fighters instead of one.
While fight fans enjoy Santa Cruz’s style, those close to him wonder if it is too much too soon for a fighter with a bright future.
As much as youth is on Santa Cruz’s side, and it shows with the amount of energy he expends in the ring, the fear of Santa Cruz burning out has been on the forefront within the last year. It is a concern, especially with Santa Cruz wanting to accomplish many goals, which include winning world titles belts at 126 and 130 pounds.
In the meantime, Santa Cruz has business to take care of. He will face Cesar Seda in a scheduled 12 round bout at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX. Santa Cruz will defend his 122-pound world title belt on a Golden Boy Promotions card that will be televised live on Showtime.
The broadcast begins at 8PM ET/ 5PM PT.
Santa Cruz is part of a stellar card that includes fight of the year candidates in Adrien Broner versus Marcos Maidana and Keith Thurman versus Jesus Soto-Karass. There will be a number of viewers who will tune in because of Santa Cruz.
How can you not like the fighter from Boyle Heights, just east of downtown Los Angeles? Outside of the ring, he is a soft-spoken family man, while he throws everything and the kitchen sink while dominating foes in the ring.
Some fighters who may be blessed with Santa Cruz’s tenacity and in-ring talent may take it for granted. But Santa Cruz knows better, coming from a fighting family where his two older brothers were prizefighters.
Case in point: While few pick Seda to pull the upset, Santa Cruz is not underestimating the Puerto Rican fighter.
“He’s a lefty and a difficult fighter to face,” Santa Cruz told Boxingscene.com earlier this week. “I have to be smart and be committed to throwing that right hand to the head. He’s an okay boxer and he moves a lot, but I have to work the body.”
Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs) became a household name in the boxing world last year. He had as good a year as anyone in boxing after winning a world title last June and winning all five bouts he fought in.
While most boxing experts are quick to point out the effectiveness of a fighter to fight as often as possible, some wondered if it was too much for Santa Cruz. In his last bout of 2012, Santa Cruz won a 12 round unanimous decision over Alberto Guevara. Although he won, Santa Cruz did not throw as many punches as he had in previous fights.
Santa Cruz’s team erred on the side of caution, shutting down the strenuous training for a few months. He would not return to the ring for almost five months, on the Floyd-Mayweather-Robert Guerrero undercard on May 4th.
While he enjoys being in the ring, even Santa Cruz agreed with the decision.
“I have to admit my body was kind of tired. I fought on November, then fought again five weeks later in December. I didn’t get too much time to recover. I feel it’s my fault that they (Golden Boy) put me on the show. Next time I know that I will need two months to get ready.”
To appease the diehard fans, Santa Cruz returned with a vengeance on that May 4th card, overwhelming and stopping Alexander Munoz. While some fight fans have caught on and enjoy the hard-hitting and aggressive style, Santa Cruz was anything but earlier in his career.
In his first 11 bouts as a pro, Santa Cruz only had two knockouts, the opposite of the type of power he is in possessing in recent fights. Even during this time period, Santa Cruz did not believe he would achieve the type of success he is now enjoying, one other fighters could dream about.
“When I was with Top Rank and TKO Promotions, I only had two knockouts. Now that I’m knocking people out, it’s surprising me.”
“I wanted to become big, but I never expected to get to this level. I never imagined myself to be where I’m at now. I didn’t believe I would get to this level. But I just put in my head that I would train hard and to be determined to work hard to get where I’m at.”
That success has also been attributed to having his father in his corner. While much has been said of how father-son relationships could be detrimental to the boxer, Santa Cruz is the exception.
While both may not always seem to see eye to eye, Santa Cruz is not about to make any changes that results in his father not being in his corner. In fact, Santa Cruz’s father is the inspiration for keeping the young fighter in line and grounded in achieving goals inside the ring.
“We’re always together and we do everything together. He means a lot to me because he loves boxing and so do I. His dream was for one of his sons to become a world champion. I wanted that dream to come true and it did. Sometimes we argue, but time passes and we move on as if nothing happened.”
Like Miguel “Mikey” Garcia, Santa Cruz is in his mid-20’s and has not reached his full potential yet. Fighters like these will get better over time and will eventually reach that ceiling. When they do, the sky is the limit.
Santa Cruz does envision moving up in weight to 126 and 130 pounds. He would like a bout with Guillermo Rigondeaux, but that will not happen anytime soon because of the ‘Cold War’ between Golden Boy and Top Rank, which co-promotes Rigondeaux.
Which could lead to an eventual showdown with fellow Southern California resident Abner Mares, who will be fighting Jhonny Gonzalez on February 15th.
Regardless of what Santa Cruz decides to do in the coming months in 2014, assuming he does beat Seda on Saturday, people will continue to watch him.
While fighters only wish there is an ‘off’ button on Santa Cruz in the ring, fight fans will always want to keep that television ‘on’ whenever he fights.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Knockout Nation, and RingTV. He could be reached by email at [email protected] or twitter at FSalazarBoxing