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Wilder vs Ortiz 2: Leo Santa Cruz confident but not dismissive of Miguel Flores

Leo Santa Cruz goes for a world title in a fourth weight class on Saturday.

Scott Kirkland/Fox Sports/Picturegroup
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

There’s really no getting around it: Leo Santa Cruz is a massive favorite in Saturday’s fight with Miguel Flores, which will be the main undercard attraction on the Wilder-Ortiz 2 pay-per-view card from Las Vegas.

The 31-year-old Santa Cruz (36-1-1, 19 KO) is listed anywhere from 40-to-1 to 200-to-1 against Flores (24-2, 12 KO), a 27-year-old fighter who has twice fallen short well below the level he’ll be fighting at this weekend.

But Santa Cruz, who will look to win a world title in a fourth weight class, says he’s not going to join the choir dismissing his opponent.

“Once the fans see how great the fight is, they’re going to see how amazing a fighter Miguel Flores is,” he said at Wednesday’s press conference. “We know what he’s capable of and that’s why I trained so hard to get this win.”

It’s not going to be easy to get boxing fans to take this as more than the standard pre-fight talk, but whether his competition has been seen as tough or soft going in, it is true that Santa Cruz has legitimately never fought like he was overlooking an opponent — he comes in fighting as hard as always no matter who’s across the ring, and he says he’s going to be the same fighter he’s always been in yet another weight class, with some understandable preparation adjustments.

“I think I’ll still throw a lot of punches at the new weight. I always train the same no matter what. My dad says that I need to be working for the whole three minutes of each round,” he said. “The only thing that is different for this fight is that we’re working on our power. We’re working on sitting down on our punches because we know the fighters in this division are bigger and stronger.”

Flores is doing his part, and promising a knockout in the fight.

“Leo is a great champion but we’ve worked hard,” he said. “In boxing people see the hands fly, but I’ve got ring knowledge. We’re going to offset what he does and get the victory Saturday night. We’re ready. Leo is a great fighter and I respect his family. But when we step in that ring. I’m trying to be like Wilder and knock him out. Leo and I are definitely going to steal the show with an action-packed fight.”

Apart from bluster, Flores says he and his team have worked to try and nullify Santa Cruz’s usual plans of attack, and that with nearly a year of training dedicated to preparing for Leo — the two were originally scheduled to fight in February — he feels he’ll be well-prepared.

“We have worked a lot on trying to slow down the pace of fighters who throw a lot of punches,” Flores said. “I’ve been a volume puncher all my life as well. We’re both warriors and people are underestimating me. I love it because I’m going to give them a surprise Saturday night.”

He added, “I know his dad tells him to try to box so we know we have to be ready for that too. If he wants to box we’re ready for a technical fight. But if he wants to brawl, I’m ready to start hooking.”

But it will remain a fight that most see as a foregone conclusion unless and until Flores changes minds in the ring on Saturday. The expectation is that Santa Cruz adds another world title, and another piece to his legacy.

“To become a four-division world champion would be a huge accomplishment for me,” Santa Cruz said. “I never dreamed of winning titles in four divisions. Not many fighters can say that and I’m happy and excited to get in the ring Saturday and make this new dream come true.”

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