By Jake Donovan
The handlers for rugged contender Victor ‘Nene’ Zaleta knew it was an uphill battle the moment that terms were accepted to face Leo Santa Cruz in downtown Los Angeles. Zaleta moved up in weight to face the all-action bantamweight titlist in last weekend’s televised co-feature on Showtime.
“We took the fight at a weight he normally doesn’t fight at, because those opportunities aren’t always presented twice,” admitted his handlers, Promociones del Pueblo, in a statement. “The economic (financial) motive was a key factor in the decision. We knew he was at a weight disadvantage but were confident he would offset it with the courage and bravery which defines (his career).”
Zaleta was all heart, but the end result proved to be skill over will. Santa Cruz threw punches non-stop until forcing his opponent to wilt. It took eight-plus rounds to produce that outcome, as Zaleta bravely recovered from three knockdowns before being stopped midway through the ninth round.
The loss was Zaleta’s first inside the distance and his second overall defeat at the title level, with both fights taking place outside of his native Mexico. Zaleta (20-3-1, 10KO) fell considerably short in a failed title bid against super flyweight champ Omar Narvaez on the road in Argentina last February.
Last Saturday’s showing was his first in the United States. While a move back down below bantamweight is a guaranteed part of his future, he hopes to one day return to the U.S. – or wherever his next big opportunity takes him.
“’Nene’ came up short against Santa Cruz, but it was a great learning experience,” stated Zaleta’s team. “He can now return to his normal weight class with the satisfaction of putting up a great fight and leaving an impression beyond our borders. He assured himself an opportunity at super flyweight or even flyweight, wherever he feels more comfortable.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox