Leo "Teremoto" Santa Cruz (23-0, 13 KO) is one of the hottest young stars in boxing. On Saturday, Santa Cruz will go up in weight to take on Alexander "El Explosivo" Munoz (36-4, 28 KO) for the vacant USBA super bantamweight title.
Santa Cruz had already won the IBF bantamweight title in June—now he's seeking to conquer a higher weight class.
The 24-year-old will face perhaps the stiffest challenge of his career from Munoz. The 34-year-old Venezuelan is experienced and powerful.
This is just one of the solid bouts on the Floyd Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero undercard. It should be a great night of boxing. Here's how you can see the event.
When: Saturday, May 4, 9 p.m. ET
Where: MGM Grand in Las Vegas
TV: PPV (Call your local cable or satellite provider)
The Book on Santa Cruz
Building on Last Year's Success
Besides Nonito Donaire, no other fighter had a better 2012 than Santa Cruz. He was 5-0 during the calendar year.
The five wins saw him defeat Vusi Malinga to win the IBF title in June and defend his championship three times in six months.
At only 24 years old, he's ready for bigger and better things. That explains and totally justifies his move up to super bantamweight.
Santa Cruz is on his way to super stardom in the sport.
In the Ring
The young Mexican, who was born in Huetamo, Michoacán de Ocampo, was especially impressive in his last fight. Santa Cruz out-boxed a game and underrated Alberto Guevara in December.
Despite being a little fatigued and befuddled early on, Santa Cruz did what all the greats do: he adjusted mid-fight and ultimately earned the decision victory.
He likes to stand toe-to-toe and trade with his opponents, but the Guevara fight required a bit more patience. Santa Cruz showed that when the fight calls for a different strategy, he can adapt.
Take a look at this video of the exciting 12th round:
Teremoto's arsenal is highlighted by strong, accurate power punching. He's especially punishing with his consistent body-punching.
He is very difficult to back up, and his chin has checked out fine in every bout I've seen.
Moving up a division will certainly put that to a test, but his frame seems naturally built to hold the extra weight.
The Book on Munoz
Trying to Re-Direct a Shooting Star
Santa Cruz is the featured attraction in this fight, but Munoz brings a lot to the table. He is 10 years Santa Cruz's senior and this will be his third fight at super bantamweight.
Though he is a veteran who has won world titles at super flyweight, he is designed to be nothing more than a test for a dynamic young fighter.
There may be no stopping Santa Cruz from ultimately becoming champion at 122 pounds. But Munoz is determined not to become a victim on Santa Cruz's road to success.
In the Ring
The man they call "El Explosivo" is very aggressive. His big power is his primary weapon, and he has pursued the KO in every time I've seen him fight.
While he has had great success in his career fighting that way, he does expose himself to a fighter who can effectively counter punch.
One example of this came in Munoz's loss to Koji Kameda in December 2010. Munoz continuously left himself open to counter shots after lunging in.
That approach not only left Munoz open for counter shots—it also tired him out.
It is clear that was Kameda's game plan. Take a look at the fight video below—the video is of the entire fight, but if you jump to the 38:50 mark, you can see the final round.
Against a fighter like Santa Cruz, the counter punches will likely be harder and even more accurate.
Munoz took a lot of hard shots against Kameda; though he did go down in the final round, he showed a great chin and resolve to go the distance.
He'll need both qualities on Saturday night.
Munoz is a solid veteran worthy of respect, but he won't beat Santa Cruz. Munoz's style plays right into Santa Cruz's hands.
He's better when he doesn't have to chase opponents to find the exchanges. Hard counter punching will rule the day and Santa Cruz will score an impressive KO or stoppage in the middle rounds.
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