It is fitting that boxing returns to CBS after 15 years in the form of IBF bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz. The fan-friendly, all-action fighter who is nicknamed "Terremoto" (Spanish for "Earthquake") will showcase his velocity, intensity and severity when he headlines the sport's return to the network tomorrow afternoon (4:30 p.m., ET) against Alberto Guevara at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
The 24-year old Mexican-born Santa Cruz (22-0-1, 13 KO's), who now resides in Lincoln Heights, California, has been moving and shaking his way into the hearts of boxing fans thanks to his active fight schedule and aggressive style in the ring. This will be his fifth fight in 2012 (activity which is virtually unheard of for a world champion in the sport today), including three consecutive appearances on Showtime before rupturing onto the first boxing card to be held on CBS since Bernard Hopkins defeated Glen Johnson by eleventh round TKO in July 1997.
Over the course of those previous three fights, ShoStats reflected that Santa Cruz threw 2,698 total punches for an average of 899 per contest. What makes this number even more hazardous is that two of the three bouts did not go the full 12 rounds.
After Santa Cruz defeated the spirited Vusi Malinga in a landslide unanimous decision this June to win the vacant title, landing 410 of his 1350 total punches thrown, he forced Eric Morel to crack after the fifth round of their September 15 bout after landing 54% of his total punches (277 of 509). He followed that up with a ninth round TKO two months later against the extremely game Victor Zaleta, having landed 342 of 839 punches at the time of the stoppage. This devastation included over 100 body punches.
Little is known of Guevara (16-0, 6 KO's) who will be fighting for the first time outside of his native Mexico in the first scheduled 12-round bout of his young career. Meanwhile, Santa Cruz is approaching the peak acceleration of his career and knows how to cause some aftershock for the inexperienced Guevara.
"I’ve fought boxers before. The way to beat them is to work the body, break them down, slow their movement and make them bang with me," Santa Cruz said of his fight strategy.
The potential for additional boxing on CBS, which is aired in close to 120 million homes compared to the approximate 25 million subscribers to Showtime, will depend on how well the show performs in terms of ratings and entertainment value. The card will also include the pro debut of 2012 Olympian Joseph Diaz and two of his U.S. Olympic teammates, Errol Spence and Marcus Browne in each of their second pro appearances.
Yet, it is Santa Cruz upon who is being relied to create the seismic wave.
“If we get an entertaining show with good viewership – and Leo Santa Cruz gives us a very good shot at both – then we could see more of this in the future," said Stephen Espinoza of Showtime (which is under the corporate umbrella of CBS).
It is hopeful that Leo Santa Cruz can provide the sudden release of energy needed to resuscitate boxing on free network television. To do so would go a long way in bringing back several fans who left the sport behind with the belief that boxing was beyond repair.