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Leo Santa Cruz seeks 2019 fights against Gary Russell and Carl Frampton after February home bout

Leo Santa Cruz seeks 2019 fights against Gary Russell and Carl Frampton after February home bout
Leo Santa Cruz (gold shorts) battles to defeat Abner Mares (white shorts) in their WBA Featherweight Title & WBC Diamond Title fight at Staples Center on June 9. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)

Leo Santa Cruz wants it known he put in every effort to fight someone more prominent than Mexico’s Miguel Flores (23-2, 11 knockouts) in the main event of a Feb. 16 boxing card expected to take place in the Southland.

“I wanted a fight before the year ended. It couldn’t happen. I still wanted to fight soon, so the fight they could make was Flores,” said the World Boxing Assn. featherweight champion.

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Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs), a three-division champion from Los Angeles, spoke to the Los Angeles Times at the launch of Fox’s new four-year deal with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.

In the rush to finalize as many fights as PBC could for the formal announcement of bouts slated for the first quarter of 2019, one of the sacrifices was turning from World Boxing Council featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. and involving Santa Cruz in a hometown fight.

Although a site deal is not official, the front-running venue to land Santa Cruz-Flores is the outdoor StubHub Center.

“I’m just a fighter. I train in the gym. I ask for fights,” Santa Cruz explained after Haymon had previously overprotected the fighter raised in Lincoln Heights.

“If those fights can’t happen, and they come and say it’s someone else, I’m here to fight. I’m up for Flores. But I’ve told them, ‘Next fight I want this …’ and I believe it’s going to happen.”

“This,” as Santa Cruz describes it, are two more fights in 2019, a unification bout against Russell and a trilogy meeting with Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton, after the pair split their two meetings.

“They say I’ll fight three times in 2019, against Frampton and Gary Russell in some order. If Russell goes first, it’s Frampton next … doesn’t matter to me. I just want to prove I’m the best featherweight,” Santa Cruz said.

Santa Cruz said he has been assured by Haymon that will transpire as long as he takes care of Flores on a card that could include a likely slugfest between 2014 fight-of-the-year participant John Molina Jr. of La Verne and unbeaten former world lightweight champion Omar Figueroa.

Flores hails from the same state in Mexico — Michoacan — that Santa Cruz’s family originated from.

“I know fighters from there come with a lot of heart, with everything,” Santa Cruz said. “They come to leave everything in the ring, to make it a war. And that’s what we’re looking for, to make it a bloody war. We expect him to give the fans a great fight, and that’s what I love to do.”

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