MaxBoxing's Steve Kim tweeted this afternoon that according to manager Cameron Dunkin, a fight between Leo Santa Cruz and Vusi Malinga for the vacant IBF bantmaweight title is possible or even likely for the Ortiz vs Berto II undercard in Los Angeles on June 23.
Showtime is looking to make their main series, the Saturday night cards, into more three- and four-fight events, including of course that big June 2 show that will have four fights. Santa Cruz vs Malinga was originally thought to be part of that card, but now looks like it will move to June 23. That show already has the big Ortiz vs Berto rematch, plus Lucas Matthysse vs Humberto Soto in a 140-pound fight of note.
Of all the things I've criticized Showtime for this year -- particularly their heavy reliance on Al Haymon fighters -- one thing I will say, and have said, and will now say again, is that I love the move to three/four-fight shows. One and two fights shows just don't always cut it. Add in the great undercard coverage on Showtime Extreme, and they are, apart from some of the matchmaking, giving fight fans something they want. Hopefully over time the some of the matchmaking will improve, but I get the feeling that's going to be an issue for a while. But the glass isn't totally empty. Just half-empty. When you look at it that way, it's optimistic. Yay!
Santa Cruz (19-0-1, 11 KO) is one of my personal favorite prospects at the moment. The 23-year-old Mexican is a terrific body puncher who can really bring it, and he has sort of a fearless attitude thus far. The younger brother of one-time lightweight contender Jose Armando Santa Cruz, he looks to have a real star future in the bantamweight division.
Malinga (20-3-1, 12 KO) is a solid step up. He was named the IBF mandatory quite a long while ago, but never got his shot at any of the titleholders. With Abner Mares choosing to vacate the belt and move up to 122 pounds, where he'll face Eric Morel on April 21, it looks like he'll get that shot. Malinga, 32, hasn't fought since beating Michael Domingo in an IBF eliminator in October 2010. I do have a hard time respecting guys who just sit on mandatory status, but that's another story.