By Miguel Rivera
Leo Santa Cruz accepts the fact that Chris Avalos may not be the opponent that the fans expected for his next return in 2017, but he still believes that Avalos will not be an easy opponent.
He says Avalos stands in the way of his big 2018 plans, which include a rematch with Abner Mares and the third fight with Carl Frampton.
Santa Cruz (31-1-1, 18 KOs) will defend his WBA featherweight title against Avalos (27-5, 20 KOs) on October 14 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Initially Santa Cruz was being position to face Mares, who holds the WBA "regular" title at 126-pounds, but Santa Cruz indicated that he wanted an interim-fight before the rematch takes place in early 2018.
Santa Cruz, who hasn't fought since beating Frampton in January, wanted a decent fight to shake off the rust - but views Avalos as a dangerous opponent.
"I do not underestimate any fighter, for me every fighter is tough, dangerous. In the ring everything can happen, sometimes the fans are hard [on a fighter], but if they were in our place they would understand that there is no easy opponent in the ring... we both have hands, power. Chris Avalos is a puncher, has 20 knockout in 27 fights, he's fought the best, with Oscar Valdez, Carl Frampton, with the Filipino (Mark Magsayo), other fighters, so I take him as a strong fight," Santa Cruz told ESPN Deportes.
"I was training for the fight with [Mares], and afterwards they told me that it was not going to be with Mares. My dad told me that because we both had gone a long time without fighting, Mares since December and me since January - he thought my body would not be prepared, so I wanted a fight beforehand and then with Mares. We wanted a fight to see how we feel and if we win - we go forward with the tough fight with Mares. We know that Mares is tough, he's a great fighter and I want to go in there at one hundred percent.
"I think that I still have time at featherweight. I want to do some more fights. After this fight we want to go fight with the best... Mares, Frampton, Oscar Valdez, Gary Russell, Lee Selby, any of those fighters..... and if we do not reach an agreement [with any of them], then we are going to 130 pounds."