Leo Santa Cruz to defend featherweight belt Feb. 27 at Honda Center

Leo Santa Cruz defends featherweight belt Feb. 27 at Honda Center

Leo Santa Cruz exchanges punches with Abner Mares, right, during their WBC diamond featherweight and WBA featherweight championship boxing bout on Aug. 29.

(Danny Moloshok / Associated Press)

Featherweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz will return to fight in a major Southland venue Feb. 27.

Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 knockouts), of Los Angeles, will face Spaniard Kiko Martinez (36-6, 26 KOs), a former super-bantamweight champion, at Honda Center.

Martinez was defeated in his biggest fights, against super-bantamweight champions Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg, who are fighting in a title unification bout Feb. 27 in Manchester, England.

Santa Cruz posted a signature title victory by decision over Southland rival Abner Mares, a former three-division champion. The belt made Santa Cruz a three-division world champion.


Afterward, Santa Cruz spoke of pursuing another significant bout against Frampton or fellow World Boxing Assn. featherweight champion Jesus Andres Cuellar. Santa Cruz has the WBA’s “super” version of the featherweight belt.

Instead, he meets Martinez, who was stopped in the second round by Quigg (32-0, 23 KOs) last year.

Santa Cruz and his manager, Al Haymon, were subjected to steady criticism for a string of three soft fights beginning in 2014.

Immeadiately after Santa Cruz’s victory over Mares, the champion’s trainer and father, Jose Santa Cruz, said he didn’t want an immediate rematch because of Mares’ rough tactics, especially early in the bout.


Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire