By Jake Donovan
Even at just 22 years of age, Andres Gutierrez is old and wise enough to not look past the task at hand even while mapping out his potential future. The opportunities that lie ahead drive him to succeed in the present, which in part explains the unbeaten record he carries into Saturday’s 12-round bout with Argentina’s Manuel Dionisio Echenique in his birthtown of Queretaro, Mexico.
Looming ahead – or so he hopes – is a coveted showdown with unbeaten featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz, who has his own business to tend to in a February 27 title defense versus Kiko Martinez. Gutierrez is putting on a show this weekend, not just to impress the partisan crowd, but to also remind his featherweight peers why he elected to move up in weight.
“I am ready to become the first world champion ever from Queretaro,” Gutierrez (33-0-1, 24KOs) insists. “I have the talent, the support of my fans and Promociones del Pueblo. This fight on Saturday (versus Echenique) will go a long way to show that I have what it takes to beat a great champion like Leo Santa Cruz.”
Gutierrez served as a top-rated super bantamweight contender, but outgrew the division before he could land a title shot. His three fights since moving up for good in 2014 have all taken place above the featherweight limit, including Saturday’s Televisa-televised clash versus Echenique, which takes place at the challenger’s natural weight of 130-pounds.
Also on the show is another title hopeful, as Marco Antonio Periban faces Jose Miguel Torres in a scheduled 10-round super middleweight attraction.
Having turned pro at age 15, the unbeaten contender has already blitzed through bantamweight and super bantamweight. In taking over-the-limit fights, he allows his body to naturally replenish, making it less of a chore for when he will have to fully campaign as a featherweight.
There exists the realization that a possible title shot at Santa Cruz – should he get past Martinez later this month – would have come to take place on the road. While both hail from Mexico, Santa Cruz has made his mark in the Southern California region. Gutierrez enjoys hometown advantage this weekend, but is perfectly willing to concede that privilege in exchange for his first major title.
“It wouldn’t bother me at all to fight Leo in California,” Gutierrez insists. “He has a lot of fans there and it would be a terrific clash of unbeaten featherweights. I have my own growing fan base in the United States. It’s time for me to make that leap, as I’d love nothing more than to become the king of the featherweight division.
“Leo Santa Cruz is very good, he’s the best featherweight in the world in my opinion. But he is not invincible, nor will he be able to contend with my (skills and) desire to become world champion.”
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox