LAS VEGAS – Now that he has ended a 15-month layoff, Leo Santa Cruz wants to challenge the undefeated fighter who knocked off Gary Russell Jr.
Santa Cruz told BoxingScene.com that he wanted to face Russell more than any other featherweight before the Philippines’ Magsayo upset Russell by majority decision last month. Russell (31-2, 18 KOs) entered their 12-rounder January 22 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as boxing’s longest-reigning champion.
The southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland, was an approximate 4-1 favorite over Magsayo, the number one contender for his WBC featherweight title. Russell suffered an injury to his right shoulder in the fourth round, however, which rendered Russell a one-armed fighter for eight-plus rounds in a bout Showtime televised from Borgata Event Center.
As the mandatory challenger for Russell’s title, Magsayo (24-0, 16 KOs) wasn’t required to have a rematch clause in his contract. A fight with Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19 KOs), who defeated Phoenix’s Keenan Carbajal (23-3-1, 15 KOs) by unanimous decision in a 10-round, 130-pound fight Saturday night on the Keith Thurman-Mario Barrios undercard, would be relatively easy to secure because Santa Cruz and Magsayo are affiliated with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.
“I think [fighting Magsayo would be good] because, you know, I have the Mexican spirit,” Santa Cruz replied during a post-fight press conference late Saturday night at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. “You know, I come to fight, to leave everything in the ring. We’re gonna go in the gym, train hard, get stronger. And, I think, you know, Magsayo is a great opponent. You know, he comes forward, throws a lot of punches. He doesn’t run. He comes to fight. And, you know, Mexico and the Philippines is always a great fight, you know, like Pacquiao-Marquez. So, I think it’s gonna be that type of fight with Magsayo.”
Magsayo is represented by Manny Pacquiao’s promotional company. Santa Cruz, 33, respects the newly crowned, 26-year-old champion, but he isn’t convinced Magsayo would’ve beaten Russell (31-2, 18 KOs) if Russell would’ve been healthy.
“You know, I think Magsayo is a great fighter,” Santa Cruz said. “You know, he’s perfect. You know, he has good technique, great punches, power, everything. … I don’t know if it was cuz Gary Russell’s hand was injured or nothing. But he still looked good. I don’t know what the difference was gonna be if Russell woulda been a hundred percent. But, you know, I don’t take nothing from Magsayo. He’s a great fighter and I think a fight against him would be really big. You know, both would be toe-to-toe. I think it would be a great fight between a Mexican and a Filipino.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.