WBA Super World featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz (33-1-1, 18 KOs) will be defending his title this Saturday night against the always tough Chris Avalos (27-5, 20 KOs) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Santa Cruz is using Avalos as a stay busy opponent to get ready for a much bigger fight against Abner Mares in early 2018. Santa Cruz already beat Mares by a 12 round majority decision in 2015. Due to the amount of interest from the boxing public in a second fight between them, Santa Cruz and Mares will be squaring off once again, as long as they both win their fights this Saturday night. Mares (30-2-1, 15 KOs) will be defending his WBA World featherweight title against Andre Gutierrez (35-1-1, 25 KOs) in the co-feature bout.
“Avalos is a strong fighter. I never underestimate a fighter, every fighter I step in the ring with is dangerous,” said Santa Cruz to Fight News.” I respect anyone that gets in the ring,” Santa Cruz said about his opponent. “He has 27 wins and 20 of them are knockouts. So he has pop. He has fought some really good fighters faced some champions and lost to great champions.”
The 27-year-old Avalos is ranked #11 by the World Boxing Association, and he’s had some tough times in the last 7 years with defeats to Christopher Martin, Jhonatan Romero, Carl Frampton, Oscar Valdez and Mark Magsayo. Avalos isn’t altogether a bad fighter. He’s beaten some decent talents during his career with wins over Drian Francisco, Miguel Flores and Rey Perez.
The fact that Avalos keeps losing to the better fighters suggests that he doesn’t have the talent to cut it at the highest levels in boxing. Avalos’ last 3 losses were all knockout defeats. Avalos is still young at 27, but his career as a major player seems to be winding down. He can’t afford too many more defeats without dropping out of the top 15 altogether, which will likely happen if he’s knocked out by Santa Cruz on Saturday.
It’s unclear why Santa Cruz is defending his title against Avalos. He was just beaten 2 fights ago by Magsayo by a 6th round knockout on April 23, 2016. It would seem like a better idea for Santa Cruz to at least be fighting someone that’s winning rather than losing fights.
“Right now my focus is Avalos. After this fight we will see what happens,” Santa Cruz said.
You can call Santa-Cruz-Avalos a showcase fight for Santa Cruz. He’s being matched against a guy that he can knock out easily and look good against. The same goes for Mares with him fighting Gutierrez on the undercard.
With Santa Cruz and Mares looking good in their respective fights against Avalos and Gutierrez, it will help set up their rematch in early 2018 to get the boxing public excited about it. It would be better for Mares and Santa Cruz to take on good opposition for their October 14th date, but it doesn’t look like their management are interested in difficult fights.
This is Santa Cruz’s fight to win on Saturday. If Avalos is going to pull off an upset, he’s going to need to bring some heavy artillery into the ring with him and hope for the best.