By Keith Idec
The opponents are set for the tune-up fights Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares hope will lead to their rematch sometime early in 2018.
The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday night that Santa Cruz will face Chris Avalos and Mares will meet Andres Gutierrez in 126-pound title fights FOX will televise October 14 from StubHub Center in Carson, California. Santa Cruz and Mares tentatively were supposed to fight again October 7 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, but their rematch was postponed because they couldn’t come to a financial agreement to box in a fight Showtime was supposed to televise.
BoxingScene.com has learned that as part of the Southern California rivals’ deal to take tune-up fights on the same show, Santa Cruz and Mares have reached undisclosed financial terms for a rematch that must take place within the first quarter of 2018.
“We wanted a tune-up after the long layoff we’ve had since January,” Santa Cruz told the Los Angeles Times. Mares would’ve been fine with facing Santa Cruz on October 7, but said, “I’m OK with it. I do understand [Santa Cruz] is on the ‘A’ side of it.”
Santa Cruz beat Mares by majority decision in their first fight in August 2015 at Staples Center.
Mares became the mandatory challenger for Santa Cruz’s WBA super world featherweight title thanks to his split-decision defeat of Argentina’s Jesus Cuellar on December 10 at USC’s Galen Center in Los Angeles. The 31-year-old Mares (30-2-1, 15 KOs) won the WBA world featherweight title from Cuellar (28-2, 21 KOs).
The 29-year-old Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KOs) won back the WBA super world featherweight championship from Carl Frampton (23-1, 14 KOs) on January 28 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Santa Cruz defeated Northern Ireland’s Frampton by majority decision nearly six months after Frampton took that title from Santa Cruz by winning a majority decision against the native Mexican in July 2016 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
In Avalos (27-5, 20 KOs), Santa Cruz will encounter a 27-year-old contender who’s coming off a five-round, technical knockout win against Houston’s Miguel Flores (21-2, 9 KOs) on July 18 in Alexandria, Louisiana.
A cut over Flores’ left eye caused a ringside physician to stop their fight following the fifth round. Flores was winning that bout by the same score on all three cards (48-46) when it was stopped and had dropped Avalos in the third round.
Avalos, of Lancaster, California, had lost three of his previous four fights by technical knockout, including a fifth-round TKO defeat to Frampton in February 2015. Santa Cruz, of Rosemead, California, scored a close decision win over Avalos when they were amateurs.
As for Gutierrez, Mares will meet an opponent whose last fight was canceled amid strange circumstances. Mexico’s Gutierrez (35-1-1, 25 KOs) was supposed to fight Frampton on July 29 in Belfast, but the entire card was scrapped hours after their weigh-in July 28 because Gutierrez slipped in the shower, suffered cuts to his chin and nose, and damaged two teeth.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.