By Lyle Fitzsimmons

As long as we’re here, let’s go ahead and blame it on Manny Pacquiao.

Though, unlike other stories these days in which the Filipino politician plays the protagonist, this one touches neither on bald-faced homophobia nor maddeningly inconsistent damage control.

This one, instead, has only to do with Pac Man’s penchant for weight-class ladder climbs.

By managing to secure sanctioning body affirmation at seven stops from 112 to 154 pounds, the now-37-year-old whirling dervish changed the rules for a new generation of wannabe ascenders.

Leo Santa Cruz among them.

While it’s unlikely the Mexico-born California resident will ever quite match the older man’s belt-copping aplomb, it doesn’t mean he’s not still anxious to fill a mantel with an enviable collection.

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Known as “El Terremoto” – or, the “Earthquake” – the affable Santa Cruz has already earned the IBF’s top laurels at 118 pounds and the WBC’s top honors at 122 pounds, and heads into a Saturday night match looking to retain a newly-secured hold on the WBA’s top-tier belt at 126 pounds.

The scheduled 12-rounder with Kiko Martinez, himself a former claimant at 122, headlines a three-bout Showtime card to be broadcast from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

Should it go as planned for the champion, though, it’s only the halfway point. In fact, the ambitious body punching specialist doesn’t plan on stopping until the scale says super lightweight.

“I want to accomplish many things,” he said. “I want to be a multiple world champion. I want to be, maybe, a six-time world champion. I want to move to 130 and hopefully win a title right there, then 135 and 140. I think 140’s the highest I want to move up in weight.

“When my body says ‘enough already’ and it’s really tired, then it’ll be time to retire. When I have accomplished all the things that I want.”

And while the idea of a 22-pound championship swath still seems improbable even in the Pacquiao aftermath, Santa Cruz is confident his long, lean torso provides a suitable frame on which to build.

Indeed, at a shade past 5-foot-7, he’s just a half-inch shorter than reigning WBO reigning 140-pound kingpin Terence Crawford, and actually stands about an inch taller than the division’s outspoken WBA champion, Adrien Broner. The WBC champion at 140, Viktor Postol, is an anomaly at 5-foot-11, while IBF/IBO ruler Eduard Troyanovsky is, like Crawford, a more reasonable 5-foot-8.

Incidentally, Saturday’s challenger, Martinez, is only 5-foot-5.

“I have seen other fighters that are shorter than me, or maybe the same height as me, and they’re fighting at 147,” Santa Cruz said. “I’m almost the same height as Canelo – I think he’s taller than me by an inch -- and he’s fighting at 154. So I think if I do the right exercise and I eat the right things, I could be solid at 140. If I wait for my body to get bigger and I train a little more, I think I could.

“Maybe in two or three more years.”

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This week's title-fight schedule:

IBF/WBA junior featherweight/super bantamweight titles – Manchester, United Kingdom

Carl Frampton (IBF champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Scott Quigg (WBA champion/No. 4 IWBR)

Frampton (21-0, 14 KO): Third title defense; Ninth fight in England (8-0, 5 KO)

Quigg (31-0-2, 23 KO): First title defense; Fourteenth 12-round bout (11-0-2, 9 KO)

Fitzbitz says: Frampton's had issues, but he's one of those guys I won't pick against until he loses at least once. So that means I'm on his side at least until Sunday morning. Frampton by decision

IBO cruiserweight title – Halle, Germany

Ola Afolabi (champion/No. 9 IWBR) vs. Marco Huck (No. 10 contender/No. 2 IWBR)

Afolabi (22-4-4, 11 KO): First title defense; Fourth fight with Huck (0-2-1, 0 KO)

Huck (38-3-1, 26 KO): Eighteenth title fight (13-3-1); Held WBO title (2009-15, 13 defenses)

Fitzbitz says: Afolabi's been close thrice, and he's got the belt going into this one. But unless Huck's most recent loss indicates more slippage than fluke, he's still the smart money pick. Huck by decision

WBA featherweight title – Anaheim, California

Leo Santa Cruz (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Kiko Martinez (No. 9 contender/No. 9 IWBR)

Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KO): First title defense; Held titles at 118 (IBF) and 122 (WBC)

Martinez (35-6, 26 KO): Sixth title fight; Held WBC title at 122 (2013-14, two defenses)

Fitzbitz says: Guys fighting Leo might start opting for one-punch losses, because 36 minutes of torso punishment has got to hurt more than a quick KO. It won't be any easier for Kiko. Santa Cruz by decision


WBC super bantamweight title – Anaheim, California

Julio Ceja (champion/No. 10 IWBR) vs. Hugo Ruiz (No. 6 contender/No. 51 IWBR)

Ceja (30-1, 27 KO): First title defense; Beat Ruiz (TKO 5) on Aug. 29

Ruiz (35-3, 31 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Third fight outside Mexico (0-2)

Fitzbitz says: Both guys went down in the first fight, which indicates that they’re pretty evenly matched in spite of one guy being ranked 10th and the other 51st. But I still like Ceja. Ceja in 8

WBO super lightweight title – New York, New York

Terence Crawford (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Henry Lundy (No. 10 contender/Unranked IWBR)

Crawford (27-0, 19 KO): Second title defense; Held WBO title at 135 (2014, two defenses)

Lundy (26-5-1, 13 KO): First title fight; Twenty-first fight at super lightweight (16-3-1, 8 KO)

Fitzbitz says: Lundy has only lost to top-flight guys at 140 – and only barely. So he’ll give Crawford a far bigger push than most expect. Problem is, Crawford’s as good as there is anywhere. Crawford in 10

Last week’s picks: 1-0 (WIN: Sturm)

2016 picks record: 4-2

Overall picks record: 736-251 (74.5 percent)

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.