Staples Center to host Abner Mares vs. Leo Santa Cruz

August 25, 2015 3:03 AM
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Santa Cruz Proffesional FighterStaples Center in Los Angeles will be absolutely electric this Saturday night when the venue plays host to one of the most highly anticipated PBC (Premier Boxing Champions) cards since its inception.

Fight fans have waited almost three years for this bout to materialize and Al Heymon has finally delivered a main event for featherweight supremacy between Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KO’s) and Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KO’s).

Bookmakers opened the betting line with Santa Cruz as a -200 favorite soon as the fight was announced and it has yet to move. But I expect that to change as fight night draws near and bettors make their way to the window.

Though a fight of this magnitude is undoubtedly pay-per-view worthy, the fact it’s being televised on ESPN should attract more volume for sports books. I speculate the odds will drop since Mares has the more impressive resume on paper.

Though Santa Cruz is a current champion, Mares appears to be more well-known by casual fight fans. Also, the Santa Cruz handlers’ reluctance to put their fighter in against top level opposition seems to have hurt his image greatly, while Mares has built a reputation for taking on the most potent challengers available.

Therefore, if you plan on backing the underdog Mares, locking in +175 now is most likely affording you the best possible price. While those who are going to take the favorite are inclined to lay less chalk by waiting.

Santa Cruz is the current WBC Super Bantamweight title holder but this bout is being contested at featherweight, meaning he can weigh in at 126 lbs., 4 pounds heavier than usual. The higher weight class is a welcome sight for the 122 lb champion, who won’t be forced to cut as much weight. At 5’7, he’s tall for a bantamweight and I expect he’ll be the bigger fighter after rehydrating ensuing the weigh in on Friday.

For Santa Cruz who will have at least a 2 inch height and reach advantage, he’ll need to fight tall and dictate the distance this bout takes place. He shouldn’t plant his feet, instead he should use lateral movement to keep Mares from being able to get inside where he’s most comfortable and most dangerous.

Santa Cruz is known for using the first few rounds to soften opponents up by throwing a crisp jab and landing the basic 1-2 combination. Around the fourth round he usually lets his hands go and starts to overwhelm opponents with volume.

When Santa Cruz gets going, it’s difficult to keep him off of you. Nonstop flurry of combinations coupled with extreme accuracy and a come forward style has made him a nightmare for opponents. The main criticism of Leo is a lack of quality adversaries in his 30 wins as a pro.

We have yet to see him truly get tested or witness him navigate his way through deep waters, something he’ll undeniably face in order to beat Mares. For Mares, a loss by first round KO at the hands of Jhonny Gonzales in 2013 derailed a lot of the momentum he had built up by beating some of the lighter divisions biggest names.

Mares held the WBC Super Bantamweight and WBC Featherweight straps prior to that loss, by beating the likes of Daniel Ponce De Leon, Vic Darchinyan, and Joseph Agbeko to name a few. So there is no question he is immensely battle tested. A victory over Santa Cruz propels him right back to the top.

There are questions of whether he’s been in too many wars, and put on too much milage, resulting in a decline at only age 29.

To emerge victorious against Santa Cruz, he’ll need to be the bully. Throughout his career that is when Abner has been at his best. To do this he has to find a way to get inside and disrupt his opponent from throwing a flurry of punches.

Mares must double up on his jab and be first, while also making body work the focus from the opening bell. He’s shown the ability to be a vicious body puncher who digs to the body when in close. This not only slows down the opposition, but also takes a lot of the power off their punches.

Look for Mares to use all those tricks he’s learned in those high profile fights against Santa Cruz, such as grabbing hold of the back of his head in the clinch and pushing it down in almost a muay thai style. He’s been accused of being a dirty fighter at times and that’s exactly what Abner needs to be this time around in order to win this fight.

Santa Cruz likes to employ a high guard and let opponents throw volume without absorbing much damage, then soon as they tire, unload violent combinations in return. When he goes to the high guard Mares needs to be patient and not fall into the trap, and rather than throw punches in bunches he should try to land a straight upper cut right down the pike.

As a fight fan I will be in for a real treat when these two warriors finally go at it. We can expect fireworks from the opening bell all the way until someone’s hand is raised. Bottom line, This fight is much higher than the current -200 price that’s up on the board. I look for Santa Cruz to come out faster than usual and engage in a style that’s way too difficult for Mares to handle.

Leo’s volume and accuracy is something few have ever faced before and most just aren’t ready to deal with. The price to back Santa Cruz will drop so I will wait until fight night to place my wager. With my own true line being close to -300, even if I’m wrong and it doesn’t drop, or worse rises a bit, there’s still more than enough value to warrant a walk to the betting window.

PICK: SANTA CRUZ

Vegas-Runner is a professional bettor/handicapper featured on CNBC, ESPN, FOX, Yahoo, CBS This Morning, The Herd, JT the Brick, & More. Follow VR on Twitter @Greek_Gamblerand at the home of the Animals, Phillygodfather.com. Contact Vegas Runner at VegasRunner@GamingToday.com.