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Leo Santa Cruz & Company in L.A. in February

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  • Leo Santa Cruz & Company in L.A. in February

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    By David A. Avila

    Though born in Michoacan, Mexico the lanky figure of Leo Santa Cruz was raised in the boxing gyms of Los Angeles like his brothers.

    Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) returns to his adopted home to defend the WBA featherweight world title against another Michoacan-born fighter Miguel Flores (23-2) on February 16. The co-main features L.A. fighter John Molina versus Omar Figueroa and Fox will televise from Microsoft Theater in LA.

    Both of these bouts should be battles.

    Decades ago, literally down the street, fighters like Santa Cruz (pictured with his young son David) and Molina would have drawn vibrant crowds at the Olympic Auditorium and front page news from local newspapers like the Los Angeles Mirror, L.A. Herald, L.A. Times or L.A. Examiner. Boxing was big business before the arrival of the Dodgers in 1958 and Lakers in 1960.

    Los Angeles is firmly staunched as the entertainment capital of the world and the center of both the music and film industry. Residents have multiple options for entertainment.

    But this year, the sport of prizefighting will be showcased almost every week with more boxing than ever before in the history of the sport.

    Premier Boxing Champions on FOX will be bringing dozens of these shows this year kicking it off with Santa Cruz and Flores at the Microsoft Theater in downtown L.A.

    Conga Room

    On Thursday, Santa Cruz, Flores and Molina arrived at the Conga Room for the press conference. If you know anything about this trio it’s that all three are bangers. Big time bangers.

    Santa Cruz followed the footsteps of his brothers Jose Armando and Roberto Santa Cruz who both fought at super lightweight. Leo arrived with his mouth full of braces and it seemed to cause problems whenever he fought.

    But he could fight at an abnormal pace and those lanky arms would find holes in the opposition’s defense.

    The first time Santa Cruz fought in California he showcased his hyper frenetic style in defeating a fighter named Elton Dharry at Morongo Casino in November 2007. A little more than a month later Santa Cruz fought on a freezing cold night at a swap meet near Los Angeles. He stopped his opponent there in two rounds.

    He always showed ability but for some reason only boxing manager Cameron Dunkin saw ability in Santa Cruz. Promoters were reluctant to sign the bantamweight who never stopped punching.

    Another two years passed with Santa Cruz beating everyone placed in front of him. But in August 2009, at Pala Casino, he fought toe-to-toe with an extremely durable Robert DaLuz who despite his record was a rough and tough fighter out of Providence, Rhode Island. It was a brutal affair with Santa Cruz emerging the winner.

    The next three Santa Cruz fights took place at Commerce Casino and it seemed he had figured out the formula to success. He was like a fighting machine and every movement was precise and effective in winning all three fights by knockout.

    Fans at the glitzy casino near East L.A. could detect a champion.

    Now, 10 years later, here he is ready to defend his featherweight title a third time. He’s already captured world titles in the super bantamweight and bantamweight divisions.

    “I'm not looking past Miguel Flores. I have to be positive and always look toward the future. I'm not looking back,” said Santa Cruz at the press conference. “I'm just training hard to get that win and become the best at 126-pounds. First that means beating Miguel Flores.”

    Flores, who like Santa Cruz was born in Michoacan, Mexico, now fights out of Houston, Texas. He’s a self-professed slugger and plucky.

    "I'm excited to be starting off the year with this great opportunity. I'm going to give the writers an easy task, because on February 16 I'm going to give them the Upset of the Year and the Fight of the Year on the same night,” said Flores, 26.

    John John

    Covina’s John Molina has another surefire foe in front of him next month when he faces undefeated Omar Figueroa in a welterweight showdown between sluggers.

    Molina last fought a year ago in a crazy back and forth battle against Ivan Redkach that saw both fighters hit the floor. In the end, Molina scored a knockout win in the fourth round that had fans delirious.

    No fight is ever over until the final bell rings with Molina.

    “I saw Figueroa say that he's not going to see me get out of the fourth round. Well he's not going to see that, because he's going to be asleep,” said Molina.

    Don’t expect either of the featured bouts to go the distance. It’s a promoter’s delight.

    "Southern California has long been a hotbed of slugfests between great Mexican-American fighters, and with Leo Santa Cruz and Miguel Flores, plus Omar Figueroa vs. John Molina Jr., we have the makings of another all-out war on February 16. This is going to be a great night," said Tom Brown, of TGB Promotions.

    Tickets begin at $30 and can be purchased through AXS.com

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel
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