WBA featherweight champion Leo "El Terremoto" Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) is ready to kick off the new year meeting as he defends his title against Miguel Flores (23-2, 11 KOs) of Michoacan, Mexico. Santa Cruz will take on Flores next month Saturday February 16 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles live on FOX and Fox Deportes.
"This upcoming fight is just like any other fight, for me every fight is tough. I have respect for everyone that gets in the ring with me," Leo Santa Cruz told SouthernCaliforniaBoxing.com
Coming off a unanimous decision over Abner Mares this past summer in a rematch. Santa Cruz was victorious in the battle of L.A and earned his spot as the top featherweight in the world as he gets set for his next title defense.
"It was a good win for me. He wanted that rematch and I gave him the rematch. I got to be crowned the king of L.A.," Santa Cruz on his last fight. "When I retire I want to be known as a great Mexican fighter and that was another big win for my legacy,"
Santa Cruz has been grinding it out in camp under the watchful eye of his father Don Jose Santa Cruz along with his brothers Antonio, and Jose in preparation for the hungry challenger Flores.
"Everything is good. We are working very hard in the gym. I've trained very hard with my dad. Even though he's sick, he still is in the gym pushing me and telling me what to do. It's a huge motivation to see him there supporting me. I know that if he sees me pushing myself, it's going to motivate him too," Santa Cruz on his preparation.
"He is looking sharp in camp. He is still learning and myself as well. He will be ready come fight night," Mr. Santa Cruz told SouthernCaliforniaBoxing.com "Ever since I've been ill my role has changed. I observe and instruct from outside the ring. I see his flaws much better from a distance, therefore I can point out what he is doing wrong. Antonio does a good job with him doing the mitts. To be honest, it's better that way. There is less pressure on him," Mr. Santa Cruz added.
For his opponent, Miguel Flores he is coming off a TKO over Raul Chirino since suffering back to back defeats at the hands of Dat Ngyuen via stoppage and dropping a decision to one of many Santa Cruz's knockout victims, Chris Avalos.
"He brings that Mexican heart to the ring, throws a lot of punches and leaves it all in the ring. That makes for a good fight," Santa Cruz on Miguel Flores
"I don't know too much about his opponent but we don't underestimate him either," Mr. Santa Cruz said
With a win here, Santa Cruz will be calling out WBC champion Gary Russell Jr. for a unification bout later this year.
"I have been asking for the Gary Russell fight. That is the fight I want. Gary Russell beat me as an amateur and I want a shot to redeem myself. I have always wanted the rematch and that's the fight that can be made to show who is the best 126," Santa Cruz added.
If that does not go as planned other potential bouts include another unification bout with IBF champion Josh Warrington, who is coming off a decision over Santa Cruz's rival Carl Frampton. Another good match-up is a unification with WBO champ Oscar Valdez but that seems doubtful.
"I have a lot of options on the table. Hopefully, I get passed this fight and get the win. I want to clean out the division and be the king at 126. To do that I have to beat Gary Russell, Oscar Valdez, Josh Warrington," Santa Cruz on his options "I've already been told, if I get passed this fight that I will be fighting Russell or Warrinton later this year. I will get 3 fights this year I've been told and it will be a unification,"
Last option for Santa Cruz would be a move up to the super featherweight division in attempt to add a fourth world title in his fourth weight class.
"If those fights don't happen than I want to move up to 130 and fight for another title," Santa Cruz said.
Looking to start the year off with a statement, the champ Santa Cruz has made it clear that he is not overlooking Flores as some major potential fights that lie ahead.
"He may think I'm underestimating him, but I've never underestimated any fighter I've faced. Media and fans come up with that, but I don't think I'm superior to anyone else, I just do my job," Santa Cruz said. "I take every fighter serious. He lost his brother and that just makes him more determined. He has nothing to lose,"
Follow Miguel on Twitter @MigMaravilla