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 BoxingScene.com last week that he would welcome a featherweight title unification fight against Russell later this year (https://www.boxingscene.com/santa-cruz-i-move-up-130-fighting-gary-russell--135179). 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 BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.