By Jake Donovan
Competition notwithstanding, Leo Santa Cruz announced his super bantamweight arrival with a bang. The former bantamweight titlist did what he was supposed to do in manhandling faded former 115 lb. champ Alexander Munoz in their pay-per-view preliminary bout Saturday evening in Las Vegas.
The bout was the first of 2013 for Santa Cruz, after an active 2012 campaign which served as a breakout year. The unbeaten action fighter made three appearances on Showtime and ended the year by headlining the first fight card to air live on CBS in more than 15 years.
The latter bout – a points win over Alberto Guevara – also served as his final fight at bantamweight. Struggling to make weight – coupled with four bouts crammed into a six-month stretch – was enough motivation to move up to the super bantamweight division. Santa Cruz was expected to dominate Munoz and did just that, scoring two knockdowns and delivering a beating bad enough to prompt Munoz’ corner to enter the ring and demand that referee Vic Drakulich stop the contest.
Now comes the hard part, deciding where he goes from here. While the next opponent isn’t immediately clear, the division in which he will campaign most certainly is, as his intentions at the new weight.
“My brother is in the hospital fighting for his life right now. I told him if he kept fighting for his life, I would come in here and fight for him and win a title,” Santa Cruz (24-0-1, 14KO) said after the fight. “I feel good at 122. I was excited to move up.”
The news was doubly exciting for boxing fans, particularly considering the potentially exiting parties.
Abner Mares moved up to featherweight, stopping Daniel Ponce de Leon in nine rounds roughly 45 minutes after Santa Cruz completed his most recent victory. Potentially joining Mares at featherweight (though not necessarily in the ring) in the near future is Nonito Donaire, who cited a desire to move up in weight after last month’s points loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux.
With two major stars eyeing future featherweight action, the arrival of the always-entertaining Santa Cruz comes right on time. Plenty of options await the rising star, including Victor Terrazas and unbeaten Jonathan Romero, both of whom most recently won belts.
Romero’s name was floated by Showtime reporter Jim Grey as a potential future opponent. Santa Cruz is fine with it, as long as it satisfies his ever growing fan base.
“I’m interested in him and anyone the fans want me to fight,” Santa Cruz bluntly stated when asked about the mouthwatering matchup. “I’m here for them."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
Tags: Leo Santa Cruz