When most fans take a look at the boxing calendar for 2018, they look at the potential rematch between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (after his suspension) and Gannedy Golovkin for later this year, the July return of Manny Pacquiao, and they eagerly await the next time Vasily Lomachenko gets in the ring once he recovers from shoulder surgery. While those will certainly be fights to watch, there is one high profile fight that keeps flying under the radar. There’s one fight that everyone should be watching on June 9th. And that’s the anticipated rematch between Mexican sluggers Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares.

On that fateful Saturday, Santa Cruz (34-1-1) will once again defend his WBA featherweight title against Mares (31-2-1) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where a majority-Mexican crowd is expected to fill the building. The fight will be televised for a national audience on Showtime although it could be a nice pay-per-view bout as well. While the aforementioned Alvarez continues to serve his suspension, this fight gives boxing fans the chance to see that other Mexican talent can grace the ring as well. It’s a nice alternative just a month after Alvarez saw another opponent take his place back on Cinco De Mayo against Golovkin.

“(It was) one of the better wars we have been able to witness,” says Cristian Moreno, a reporter for ESPN Deportes Radio. “It was an all-out war that arguably was a solid victory for Leo. Nevertheless you have to tip your hat to the formidable effort from Mares, who argues the fight was (as) close as it gets, I differ but can say that the match was as competitive as a legit competition can be,” he continued about the first fight between these men.

In that first encounter back in August of 2015, Santa Cruz won a majority decision by judges scores of 117-111, 117-111 and 114-114. Mares thought the fight was much closer while Santa Cruz “was surprised that Abner came out so strong.” Both men wanted this rematch and we will get it in just 10 days.

“The right scores we’re thrown, Leo won the match. Did he have a walk in the park? No, he did not. Was he the obvious winner? Yes. Outstanding battle,” Moreno said about the scoring of the first fight.

This is only the second time that Santa Cruz will have a rematch during his 12 years as a professional. His other rematch came against Great Britain’s Carl Frampton back in 2017. After he lost the WBA featherweight belt to Frampton when they first met in 2016 (his only loss to date), he avenged the loss in January of 2017, regained the title, and has won his last two fights since then. Considering that fact, is there a comparison between Mares and Frampton?

“I don’t know that I would say Frampton/Mares are at point of comparison, both are class-A material and poise a threat any day of the year,” Moreno says about potential comparisons. “It should come as no surprise (however) that Mares gets his rematch. It’s long awaited -almost three years later- with various reasons for delaying it. We more than likely will have a killer sequel that could very well live up to the asteroid level of the first bout,” he added.

Now that Mares has this rematch, the question begs whether or not he would look at the tapes from the Santa Cruz/Frampton fights to find a weakness that he can use to his advantage…..

“The most important (takeaway from those fights) would be spacing out the ring and taking the power punches rather than just running around landing less effective punches. That is likely the key that Mares should focus on and learn from (those) Frampton (fights),”says Moreno.

How bad does Mares need to win this fight? According to Cristian Moreno….

“Well heralded matches like these are among those must win situations, (or a) make-or-break a career situation. Mares has the most to lose and a ‘W’ would significantly help him resurface with legitimacy in the spotlight he somewhat lost after the first fight and not much exposure thereafter.”

If Santa Cruz defeats Mares again he’ll be 17-0 against Mexican fighters. When you consider his success against his fellow countrymen, his win-loss record, and the fact that he’s held championships in three weight classes already (featherweight, super bantamweight, and bantamweight), could he take over as the face of Mexican boxing at least temporarily until Alvarez is able to box again?

“Well, that answer is interesting and would depend on the sample we take as results,” says Moreno. He continued, “For one let’s begin with ‘is Canelo a legit draw?’ I would say he is very inflated by his Televisa upbringing to rocket launch his career, but the numbers do not place him not even close to Oscar de La Hoya, or Julio Cesar Chavez -just to drop two franchise names. Santa Cruz is an awesome fighter, but he falls steps behind as he can draw but only from the hardcore fans and (can’t bring) in the casual fan. A formidable fighting champion yet he lacks the marketability factor that also comes with charisma, which is tough to find. ”

What won’t be tough to find is a good quality fight come June 9th, which is exactly what we’ll see when these two lace up the gloves against each other again.