FORMER three-division world champion Leo Santa Cruz continued to prepare for his featherweight world title rematch against Carl Frampton and hosted a Los Angeles media workout Tuesday before he headlines action on Saturday, January 28 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Also working out for the media at Fortune Gym Tuesday were lightweight world champion Dejan Zlaticanin and former two-division champion Mikey Garcia, who meet in the opening bout on SHOWTIME at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
Here is what the participants had to say Tuesday:
LEO SANTA CRUZ
“My dad is my trainer full-time. He’s always been the one who knows how to point out and correct the mistakes I make in training. I think having him full-time will be a big difference. He will push me more.
“I think I have to land more clean punches this time. I’m going to work the body more and break him down. I’m going to sit on my punches a lot better. I couldn’t land my punches clearly and with enough power.
“I’m excited because Las Vegas is like my second hometown. I’ve fought there throughout my career. They give me great support. I know that when I’m tired and hear them scream, it will give me the energy to go the distance.
“I don’t think I had trouble adjusting to fighting on the East Coast. But there aren’t as many Mexican fans over there; so hopefully I will have some more support this time. None of that really matters once we get into the ring though. It’s just me and Carl in there.
“I have the loss in my head. I don’t just want to do it for myself. I want to do it for everyone who has doubted me. Once I prove them wrong and win this fight, then I’ll be proud of myself.
“I’m going to fight like this is for my first world title. I’m going up there as a nobody and I’m going to go make a name for myself. I’m coming with that kind of hunger.
“I’m going to show everyone what I’ve been working on. I want to prove that I’m better than Carl Frampton. If everything works out, we’ll get the victory.
“My fans have kept me motivated and given me the hunger to go out there and reclaim my title. That’s what I want to do. I hope it’s another Fight of the Year, but this time I will get the victory.
“I feel stronger since the last fight and I’ve been preparing for everything. We’re sparring some bigger guys just to keep me prepared. We have strong, fast and heavy opponents. Carl Frampton won’t have anything we aren’t ready for.”
“If Garcia tries to go toe-to-toe or stay in the center of the ring, I will knock him out. If he tries to jab and move, then I will have to find my way to his head and break him down.
“Training camp has been going great. I feel very good. I can’t wait to get in the ring and perform. I’m proud to be on a show like this against a star like Mikey Garcia.
“It is a big deal to be the first boxing champion from Montenegro. I’ve lived the dream that I’ve had since I was a child and first stepped into a boxing gym.
“I’m not worried about Garcia’s layoff. That is something he has to worry about. I just have to focus on January 28. I believe that I will be victorious.
“All of the fans are going to enjoy this fight and they will see me successfully defend my world title.
“I feel great training out here in Los Angeles. It’s totally different from in Europe and this style of working and training has really helped me.
“I change my style for every fighter. Each fighter is totally different and you can’t fight any two guys the same way. You have to adjust.
“A champion needs to fight everyone. That’s what I believe. There are some champions right now who do not want to face me.
“Mikey Garcia is already talking about fights with Manny Pacquiao and Vasyl Lomachenko, but he hasn’t gotten past me. He has a big test in the ring and I am going to stop him.
“I am very motivated by Garcia talking about future fights. I will show everybody that the talk means nothing. They will see everything in the ring.”
“I’m picking up right where I left off. My second fight back and I get to fight against an undefeated world champion. The quality of Zlaticanin means a lot more to me than picking up a world title. I’m super motivated for this win and to make this a great year.
“This is a big opportunity for me. It’s a very dangerous fight. That’s why I took it. These are the kind of challenges that I want. I’m ready to prove to everybody that I’m back right where I belong.
“I’m not overlooking Zlaticanin, but everybody else seems to be. People ask me about what I’d want for future fights, but I know how dangerous this guy is. Anything could happen. But I know that I have what it takes to beat him. He has power, but I also have power. The best man is going to win that night.
“Becoming an undefeated world champion like my opponent doesn’t come easy. It happens for a reason. He may be not as known to the casual fan, but anybody can tell you how dangerous he is. Some people think it’s a little too much for me right now. But I’m ready to prove everybody wrong and take on this challenge.
“I have to prepare for anything. I’m not there to dictate pace or anything, I’m there to make sure I win at all costs. I’m ready to fight any style and beat Dejan on January 28. This is a great way to get back in the position I want to be in.
“I expect him to come in and try to knock my head off. He’s a power puncher and that’s what he does. If he wants to pressure me, I’ll be ready for that.
“I never felt like I left. I was inactive from fighting but I never stopped training. The intensity is fully picked up right now. This is my job and this is what I need to do to win this fight.
“I’m ready to turn up the notch and focus in on having a great training camp. I have a great team and we’ve had quality sparring. It’s been a fantastic camp.
“You have all of the elements here for a great fight. My opponent is hungry, he’s ready and undefeated. I’m more motivated than ever. So you know it’s going to be a great fight.”
RICHARD SCHAEFER, Chairman & CEO of Ringstar Sports
“The first fight between Santa Cruz and Frampton was, in my opinion, the Fight of the Year. We have two other world title fights on this card and top to bottom it’s one of the best cards I can remember. I’m going to make sure I’m in my seat early.
“Mikey Garcia has the potential to become the biggest superstar in the sport. He has a great personality and can really fight. All the ingredients are there. Here he has a very tough fight though. Zlaticanin is the ‘King Kong’ of Montenegro. He’s a dangerous puncher and it’s going to be a great fight.
“It’s a great card but if I had to pick one fight to steal the show, it would Zlaticanin vs. Garcia. That is going to be a spectacular knockout, one way or the other.
“The main event is as good as it gets. It’s going to pick up in round 13. Leo knows that he has to make adjustments. He knows he wasn’t at his best the first time. He was out of his comfort zone and had distractions. If Leo is properly prepared physically and mentally, then he should come out victorious.
“Leo knew as soon as the results were read that he wanted the rematch. That’s the kind of mindset he has. He knows that he’s a better fighter than he showed in July. He knows what he needs to do.
“By becoming Fighter of the Year, and everything that comes with it, Frampton is flying high. This is a guy who is now a pound-for-pound great fighter. He worked all his life for that spot and he doesn’t want to give it up. For the UK fighters, fighting in Las Vegas is the pinnacle of the sport. I think there will be a lot of Irish people there and I just can’t wait for the first bell to ring.”
JOSE SANTA CRUZ, Santa Cruz’s Father & Trainer
“I feel really good. My cancer is dormant right now and I feel like I’m recuperating and getting back to my normal self. I’m making sure that everything is fine and I’m doing well with the doctors. Right now everything on the health forefront is good.
“I am happy to be part of Leo’s training camp again. I think that was the major difference in his last fight. I’m back pressuring him again and making sure he keeps the pressure on his opponent. I think my presence in the gym reminds him of the work he needs to do.
“Leo wasn’t defending the way that he should have in the last fight, he kept throwing punches without blocking. He was throwing sluggish, slow punches. I’m getting him back on point and making sure that he doesn’t let up.”
ROBERT GARCIA, Garcia’s Brother & Trainer
“Dejan Zlaticanin is a very strong fighter, not only physically, but mentally. We’re training like never before. We’ve been training hard for two months and preparing for a really tough fight. This fight is a big fight and it brings even bigger ones after.
“Mikey wants these big challenges. Zlaticanin is a polished champion with tremendous power. The challenge is ahead of him. There are so many big names at lightweight and other weight classes. His goals are to get there, and it starts with this fight.
“It’s been a few years since Mikey’s last fight in Las Vegas so it’s really exciting to be on the card headlined by Frampton-Santa Cruz 2. We know it’s going to be a huge crowd and they’ll be supporting Mikey. Plus, with all the Frampton fans that will be there, we know that it’s going to be an incredible atmosphere. Mikey knows this is the beginning of huge things. After this, Mikey will be the one headlining.”