Santa Cruz says Robert Garcia “might” make a difference in the rematch against Mares


LOS ANGELES — Besides a series of fights, world championships, and an increase in skill for both fighters, nothing has really changed for Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares since their first meeting back in 2015. That is, except, for former trainer of the year, Robert Garcia, now heading the corner of the multi-divisional world champion Mares.

The duo debuted in December of 2016 when Mares defeated Jesus Cuellar (28-3, 21 KOs) for the regular World Boxing Assn. (WBA) world featherweight title at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California. Mares secured the split decision in this bout, which also pitted a trainer vs. trainer battle between Garcia and fellow former trainer of the year, Freddie Roach.

While Mares (31-2-1, 15 KOs) and Garcia are currently 2-0 in their partnership, Santa Cruz, 29, has been a little more active since their first meeting almost three years ago. Santa Cruz has battled Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton (25-1, 14 KOs) twice in the span of six months, and has also faced off against Kiko Martinez and Chris Avalos. However, even though Santa Cruz has double the amount of fights than Mares does since their matchup in 2015, Santa Cruz realizes that Mares is a more defined fighter at this point — especially since teaming up with Garcia.

“Yes, I know Robert. Robert is a great trainer and I know he might make a difference,” Santa Cruz said in response to Garcia being a big difference in Mares’ improved skill since 2015. “But I also have learned a lot. I got a lot of experience over these few years. And whatever he has learned, I have learned too. And I think it’s going to come down to who wants it the most and I think it’s going to be a great fight.”

“He knows how to send a fighter to fight. I have seen him and you could see in his training that he is working really hard and everything. But we like that. We like that because he’s going to come in his best and we’re going to give a better fight,” Santa Cruz added.

Leo Santa Cruz Workout

Leo Santa Cruz during his media workout in Los Angeles in advance of his second meeting against Abner Mares on June 9. Photo: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

Fellow stablemate and World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight world champion, Gary Russell, Jr., is a likely opponent for the victor of this fight — which is for Santa Cruz’s WBA world super featherweight title. Russell has held his title since 2015, and just recently, successfully defended it against former 2012 Olympian, Joseph Diaz, Jr., last month in Maryland. Santa Cruz said that he’d like a unification fight after this Saturday, should he be the winner. Both he and Russell met in the amateurs, with Russell taking the win.

Nonetheless, Mares, of Montebello, California, hopes to transition from his regular title to Santa Cruz’s super world title in a Los Angeles atmosphere that he knows will be a bit intimidating.

“I think it is going to be difficult because the atmosphere; the first was intense,” Mares said of the expected crowd this Saturday. “It’s going to be double that. And it’s going to be super hard.”

Both athletes will once again meet inside the ring within the confines of STAPLES Center on the next edition of SHOWTIME Championship Boxing this upcoming Saturday beginning at 10 ET/7 PT. Neither featherweight opposed the notion of turning this into a trilogy if this second fight warrants it. Further, 154 pound world title holder, Jermell Charlo, will defend his title against former world champion and veteran, Austin Trout, in the co-main event of the evening.

“These guys are in their best shape I have ever seen them. Both want it and it’s going to come down to may the better man win on June the 9th,” Richard Schaefer, CEO of RingStar Sports, said.


About Albert Baker

Writer/Producer/Director of the Under the Hand Wraps documentary series and owner of Albert Baker is currently based in Fresno, California and has been covering boxing since 2014.

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