By Sean Crose
“For this fight I have to look spectacular,” said super bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz during a Wednesday conference call. “There’s big, big pressure on top of me.”
Indeed there is. People are wondering why a man who operates in the same realm as Guillermo Rigondeaux, Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg is battling Manuel Roman, a guy who just last May fought an opponent with a 15-10 record. After all, Santa Cruz and Roman will be fighting on the undercard of Mayweather-Maidana 2, a pay per view event.
Pressure aside, however, Santa Cruz comes across as a pleasant, thoroughly happy man, a point highlighted during the call by PR guru Kelly Swanson. “I always try to be happy,” said the nicest fighter this side of Manny Pacquiao. “I thank God that He’s been blessing me with all these things.”
Still, journalists wanted to know what the deal was on Tuesday. Rigondeaux’s name came up a bit, as did Frampton’s. In fact, one reporter wanted to know why a supposed Santa Cruz-Framptom match had fallen through.
“The truth,” Santa Cruz responded, “is I don’t know.” It was an easy answer to give, sure, but there seemed to be authenticity in Santa Cruz’ response. “They never told me about a possible fight with him,” he added.
If Santa Cruz’ backers, including the enigmatic Al Haymon, are trying to protect their man, perhaps they should let him know. For Cruz himself made it clear he’s looking beyond Roman towards some big name challenges.
“I want to prove I’m scared of fighting nobody,” he said. “Hopefully next year we get to fight Guillermo Rigondeaux.” This certainly did not sound like a stereotypical Haymon fighter, one who’s vague in speech and who keeps his opinions shadowed. “If they want it,” he claimed, speaking of the fans, “I’m there to fight.”
In all honestly, there may be more method than madness in the choice of Roman as a fall opponent. Roman, after all, has only a 26.09% knockout ratio according to BoxRec. That means he isn’t too hard a hitter. What’s more, Santa Cruz stated on Tuesday that he’s been working with slick boxers.
“We’ve been fighting fighters that move a lot and chasing them,” he said. When I asked him directly if he was prepping for Rigondeaux, Santa Cruz was refreshingly honest. “He’s going to be my future opponent,” the man said bluntly.
“We know that fight is going to happen sooner or later,” he added. “I want to move, too.” Santa Cruz may be an Haymon fighter, but he is clearly not Danny Garcia or Adonis Stevenson – at least not to speak to. “Kiko Martinez, Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg.” each man was mentioned by name by the WBC champion.
Alfredo Angulo, who is scheduled to fight James De La Rosa on the Mayweather-Maidana undercard, also spoke on the call. After receiving what can only be described as a savage beating at the hands of Canelo Alvarez last March, Angulo has decided to move up to middleweight.
It’s hard to tell how Angulo, who appeared far weaker than Alvarez, would fare against full blown middleweights like Gennady Golovkin and Peter Quillin. I asked the man outright if he felt he could still have the same power at a higher weight class. His response?
“I don’t know, honestly. I think you’ll know.”
Indeed we will know when we see him in action on September 13th. It may be easy to write Angulo off at this point – but it may not be very wise to.