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# Still got it
Santa Cruz and Mares both want Frampton as soon as they're finished with each other
Leo Santa Cruz wants a rubber match with Carl Frampton in 2018, but rival Abner Mares also wants a bite of The Jackal.

LEO SANTA CRUZ defends his WBA World featherweight title on Saturday against American Chris Avalos, a former Carl Frampton victim, with an eye toward possible championship rematches next year against fellow Mexican Abner Mares and Belfast’s ‘Jackal’.

Santa Cruz, 33-1-1 with 18 knockouts, meets Avalos, 27-5 with 20 knockouts, in the main event at Carson, California, with Mares, 30-2 with one drawn and 15 knockouts, facing fellow Mexican Andres Gutierrez, 35-1-1, on the card as well.

If Santa Cruz and Mares win, they have agreed to terms for a much-anticipated rematch for the 126-pound crown early next year. Santa Cruz edged Mares by majority decision in 2015 for the same title.

“Hopefully I can come out victorious and then face all of the big names,” Santa Cruz said. “I want to rematch Mares and Carl Frampton, then unify the division. I’m going to be ready to face anyone.”

Frampton became the second ever Irish two-weight world champion when took the title from Santa Cruz last year in New York, but lost a January rematch in Las Vegas. The 30-year-old is set for his first fight since that loss next month in Belfast.

Rival featherweight champions include Britain’s Lee Selby (25-1 with nine knockouts) who holds the IBF title and American Gary Russell (28-1 with 17 knockouts) with the WBC crown.

In his first bout since reclaiming the throne, Santa Cruz meets a challenger who dropped three of four bouts before stopping Miguel Flores in July.

“I want to get in there and test my body and see how I feel heading into the bigger fights in the future,” Santa Cruz said. “A lot of people think this will be easy for me, but I don’t see it that way.

“Chris Avalos is a tough fighter. He has 20 knockouts so I’m not going to underestimate him. Up there in the ring anything can happen. I’m going to be smart, be patient and do what I have to do to win the fight.”

Avalos was stopped in Belfast by Frampton in 2015 – his only prior world title fight.

“I’m ready for this battle,” Avalos said. “This is going to be a war. I like going toe-to-toe and so does he. I’m going to bring the best. It is going to be a fight to remember.”

Another prospective Frampton opponent, Mares, 31, will have only his second bout since losing to Santa Cruz more than two years ago, when he takes on Andres Gutierrez, whose ill-fated bout with Frampton was cancelled when the Mexican slipped in the shower, suffering facial and dental damage.

“I just want any champion,” Mares said, “but obviously there’s a key and the fighter to fight will be Leo after Gutierrez. Any order: Leo, Frampton, Gary Russell. That could totally be my career right there.”

© Agence France-Presse

- Additional reporting from Gavan Casey

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