In their warm-ups the three-weight champions both fought opponents familiar with Belfast’s Carl Frampton.
Santa Cruz [34(19)-1(0)-1] was initially due to defend his WBA title last week against Mares [31(15)-2(1)-1] in a repeat of their 2015 encounter, but this fight was pushed back due to money issues and a desire from Team Santa Cruz for a warm-up fight.
A move which was heavily criticised, the two were in action at the StubHub Centre in Carson.
Santa Cruz defended his title against Chris Avalos – who Frampton stopped in five in Belfast back in February 2015 – stopping the brave Californian in the eighth round.
The champion was on top throughout – almost bringing a halt to the bout in the fourth – however he was extended into the eighth by the overmatched Avalos, with the eventual stoppage being somewhat soft.
Earlier on in the night Mares dominated Andres Gutierrez, winning a technical decision in the tenth round.
Gutierrez had been the proposed opponent for Frampton’s homecoming during the Summer, but suffered a freak shower slip the night before which forced the cancellation of the bout.
Last night ‘El Jaguarcito’ was cut in the second – initially by a punch but worsened by an accidental headbut – and outgunned throughout by Mares.
The doctor in the corner eventually pulled the cut Mexican in the tenth round, with Mares leading 100-90 and 99-91×2 on the cards.
Afterwards Frampton [23(14)-1(0)] expressed his interest in facing either – however this looks unlikely, with the Mexican-Americans seemingly set on a rematch next.
— Carl Frampton MBE (@RealCFrampton) October 15, 2017
While Mares had said beforehand that he was not necessarily looking toward a Santa Cruz scrap, he confirmed his intention to face ‘El Terremoto’ next.
He outlined how “I’m a totally different fighter now since I started working with Robert Garcia. We’re going to keep showing that when we fight Leo Santa Cruz.”
Santa Cruz then stressed his rematch desire an hour or so later, saying “I want Abner Mares. I said if we both win; we’re going to fight. I’m ready to fight him in Los Angeles in the beginning of next year.”