Two Titles on the Line in Saturday’s Boxing Showcase in Los Angeles
WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz and IBF strawweight titleholder Carlos Licona will defend their belts this Saturday in Los Angeles.
Updated: Feb. 13, 2019 • 7:41 PM ET
Los Angeles, Calif. will host two title fights this weekend.
Leo Santa Cruz will defend the WBA featherweight title against fellow Mexican fighter Rafael Rivera this Saturday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Calif. The card will also feature a second title fight between IBF strawweight champion Carlos Licona and DeeJay Kriel.
Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) was originally scheduled to fight Miguel Flores, but an ankle injury forced Flores to withdraw from the fight. Nevertheless, on Saturday, the champion will defend his belt for the third straight time after a successful, unanimous decision title defense in his last fight against Abner Mares.
Santa Cruz’s title defenses came after he suffered his first loss and turned over the belt to Carl Frampton in 2016. He defeated Frampton in an immediate rematch and has had the belt ever since, defeating Chris Avalos and Mares.
The 30-year-old Santa Cruz turned pro in 2006 and is a three-time champion, having previously held the IBF bantamweight and WBC super bantamweight belts. He has key victories over Mares (twice), Avalos, Frampton, Manuel Roman, Cesar Seda and Alexander Munoz.
Thirteen years into his career, he still makes pleasing fans a priority.
“Most importantly, I want to give a good fight,” Santa Cruz said via Premier Boxing Champions. “I want to go out there and entertain the fans. I want them to go home happy and say, ‘Leo gave a great fight. We love how he fought. We want to watch him again.’ That’s what I care most about. That’s why I’m thinking about that [before a fight]—hopefully I don’t give a boring fight.”
Rivera (26-2-2, 17 KOs) has lost two of his last three fights, but is coming off a first-round knockout victory over Jose Ramos in October. The 24-year-old Rivera lost back-to-back decisions to Joseph Diaz and Joet Gonzalez in 2017 and 2018, respectively, the only losses in his career.
Rivera, who will fight for his first major title this weekend, is considered as an upgrade after replacing Flores. Santa Cruz knows he can’t overlook his opponent.
“This isn’t going to be an easy fight,” Santa Cruz told Fightnews.com. “Rivera is tougher than people have given him credit for in the past. Most important though, is to come out of there with the victory.”
The IBF strawweight title will also be on the line this Saturday, as champion Carlos Licona will face DeeJay Kriel.
The 23-year-old Licona (14-0, 2 KOs) will defend the belt for the first time since defeating Mark Anthony Barriga by split-decision for the title in December. The Mexican fighter has reeled off decision after decision and hasn’t finished a fight since 2015.
The 23-year-old Kriel (14-1-1, 6 KOs) hasn’t lost since his professional debut in 2014. The South African fighter most recently defeated Xolisa Magusha for the second time in four fights by unanimous decision last March. He has never fought outside of his home country and will fight for his first major title on Saturday.
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