Leo Santa Cruz doesn’t foresee any issues in returning to the featherweight division.
The reigning WBA “Super” featherweight titlist has a plan in place to make his way back down to a weight that he has not seen since 2019. His only request was to take one more fight at junior lightweight, where he will return for a scheduled 12-round clash with Phoenix’s Keenan Carbajal on February 5 at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas.
With a win, the intention is to return to the featherweight division where he has held a title since August 2015.
“I wanted to make sure how I feel. I was out for a year,” Santa Cruz explained to BoxingScene.com of the decision to remain put at 130-pounds for the time being. “I went up in weight (during the layoff) and was the heaviest I’ve ever been. I was like 153, 154. So I was like, “Maybe I’ll have trouble making 126.’”
Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19KOs) has been permitted to retain his title despite having not defended it—nor has fought at featherweight—since February 2019. Two fights have followed at junior lightweight. First was a twelve-round win over Miguel Flores to claim the vacant WBA “Super” 130-pound title in becoming a four-division titlist. Santa Cruz then returned the belt to Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis (26-0, 24KOs) via sixth round knockout in their October 2020 title fight at Alamodome in San Antonio.
An unwelcome 15-month inactive period will precede his ring return in February, which comes as the co-feature of a Fox Sports Pay-Per-View event.
In his time away from the ring, Santa Cruz was since named as part of a title consolidation process where he is on the hook to next face the winner of the planned fight between WBA “World” featherweight titlist Leigh Wood and two-time Irish Olympian and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Michael Conlan, which—barring a postponement due to the Omicron variant—is penciled in for March 12 in Nottingham, England.
There is no issue on the part of Santa Cruz to honor the WBA mandate.
“I think after this fight as long as everything goes good my next fight will be at 126,” Santa Cruz insists. “I told my team to first let me fight at 130, make sure I can drop to 130.
“I did, I got there fast. I’m already like 133 (as of December 29, more than five weeks from the official weigh-in).”
Santa Cruz-Carbajal is part of a PPV event topped by former unified welterweight titlist Keith Thurman (29-1, 22KOs), who returns after 30 months inactive to face former secondary junior welterweight titlist Mario Barrios (26-1, 17KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox