Mares: Why Isn't Leo Santa Cruz Fighting Gary Russell Next?

By Keith Idec

Leo Santa Cruz’s last opponent didn’t hesitate Tuesday night to question Santa Cruz’s next opponent.

Abner Mares embraced about as tough a fight as he could’ve accepted after he lost to Santa Cruz in his last outing, June 9 in Los Angeles. While the ambitious Mares is busy preparing to battle unbeaten WBA “super” 130-pound champion Gervonta Davis, Mares can’t help but wonder why Santa Cruz hasn’t chosen a comparable challenge.

The disparate degrees of difficulty in their upcoming matches made Mares call out Santa Cruz during the one-hour episode of “Inside PBC Boxing” that debuted Tuesday night on FS1. Mares criticized Santa Cruz for facing Miguel Flores on February 16 in Los Angeles, rather than finally fighting WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr.


“My question is why isn’t he fighting Gary Russell?,” Mares asked. “I mean, why is he taking on this guy? He beat me, you know, and look at who I’m fighting. Who is he fighting? I mean, no disrespect to Miguel. He’s definitely a good fighter, a tough fighter. But, I mean, [Russell-Santa Cruz is] the fight people wanna watch. I know he’s talking about after this fight maybe fighting Gary Russell or the winner of Gervonta or myself. But, you know, I mean, I just had to throw it out there.”

Santa Cruz, of Rosemead, California, told last week that he would welcome a featherweight title unification fight against Russell later this year ( The three-division champion added, however, that if he defeats Flores in a FOX main event February 16 at L.A. Live’s Microsoft Theater, Russell might not necessarily become the opponent for his following fight.

Russell (29-1, 17 KOs), of Capitol Heights, Maryland, doesn’t have a fight scheduled. The 2008 Olympian seemingly should be available if Santa Cruz overcomes Houston’s Flores (23-2, 11 KOs) and wants to face Russell next.

When FOX’s Mike Coppinger asked Mares if the Russell fight was made available to Santa Cruz for February 16, Mares suggested it could’ve happened that night.

“I believe so,” Mares said. “The fight was offered to me, so I think it was offered for him as well.”

Mares lost a unanimous decision to Santa Cruz in their 12-round rematch seven months ago at Staples Center for Santa Cruz’s WBA “super” featherweight title.

Following that loss, the 33-year-old Mares (31-3-1, 15 KOs), of Downey, California, turned down the Russell fight for an opportunity to move up and battle Baltimore’s Davis (20-0, 19 KOs). Showtime will televise the Davis-Mares match as the main event of a doubleheader February 9 from Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by BigStomps on 01-15-2019

[QUOTE=NearHypnos;19434568]Your memory is very very off. First, we know Donaire is no canelo, but nonetheless he was what many were speculting to be Arum’s favorite child to capitalize on Pac’s fanbase. Two.. Look, I like Mares. Love even. But his…

Comment by Boxingfanatic75 on 01-15-2019

[QUOTE=ceylon mooney;19433138]same reason he ducked the Frampton rematch in Belfast.[/QUOTE] Frampton is washed and wouldn’t have even given resistance

Comment by NearHypnos on 01-15-2019

[QUOTE=BigStomps;19434407]LoL, you silly boy! Donaire is no Canelo! And prestigious?? How?? And at the end of the day what really became of Donaire??? You gonna tell me his career went alot better than Mares's career?? At the time Mares was…

Comment by Pigeons on 01-15-2019

[QUOTE=The Big Dunn;19433143]I can't for the life of me figure out why Leo/GR wasn't the semi main for Wilder/Fury in LA. Haymon should definitely put this on the Wilder/Fury 2 card if it's in Vegas.[/QUOTE] That would've been too much…

Comment by Phill lynott on 01-15-2019

Worst matchup style wise you'll find in the division. Make for a frustrating night of boxing from viewers standpoint. Both are names drawing attn. They want to milk it as long as they can. Both would make a more exciting…

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