If you think the Leo Santa Cruz vs. Rafael Rivera fight isn’t national TV broadcast worthy, you’re not alone. Santa Cruz is perhaps the best featherweight in the world. You’d hope his team eventually would negotiate a fight with somebody who would make for a challenging fight, somebody like Gary Russell Jr., Josh Warrington or Oscar Valdez.
Instead, Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs) is fighting an opponent who has lost two of his last three contests and who has never beaten anybody near the caliber of Santa Cruz. Rivera (26-2-2, 17 KOs) is a huge underdog at +1600, meaning you’d win $1,600 by betting $100 on him to win, while Santa Cruz is an enormous -10000 favorite.
This is a mismatch for the Fox network, which will broadcast the fight at 8 p.m. ET. But that’s not the fault of Santa Cruz, who said Rivera provides a real threat to him. There are still plenty of reasons to watch the Santa Cruz vs. Rivera fight. Here are three of them.
1) Santa Cruz was originally preparing for somebody else: A few weeks ago, Santa Cruz’s original opponent, Miguel Flores, had to pull out of the fight with an ankle injury. Rivera then agreed to become the replacement. Gervonta Davis had the same issue before his fight week, but he was never worried about his new opponent and dispatched his replacement in the first round. Santa Cruz doesn’t seem all that concerned about facing Rivera instead of Flores. “We kept our training camp going despite the change of opponent. We always train the same no matter who the opponent is,” Santa Cruz said. “We spar against fighters who have every different kind of style, because the opponent could always bring something new to the ring. My dad tells me to always be prepared for any kind of style. We are ready for whatever the opponent brings into the ring.”
2) Can Santa Cruz be the first to knock out Rivera?: Neither of the two best opponents Rivera has faced could knock him down—Joseph Diaz, who’s not known as a power puncher, beat him by wide unanimous decision, while Joet Gonzalez barely scratched by with a split decision. Though Santa Cruz’s knockout percentage isn’t impressive, he’d like to be the first to stop Rivera. “Rivera is going into this fight with the same granite chin that he showed everyone against Diaz,” promoter Tom Brown said. “He was prepared and ready when the call came for this fight. He’s a great replacement. Leo better be ready and not take him lightly.” It sounds like Santa Cruz won’t. “I know that Rivera has fought some good opponents … and he’s gone the distance with them,” Santa Cruz said. “He’s given them tough battles. He’s shown that he’s a tough fighter who will leave everything in the ring.