Santa Cruz sets sights on big things

Leo Santa Cruz hopes to finish 2013 with a show-stealing turn, then possibly move up in weight. Harry How/Getty Images

With three high-caliber fights on Saturday's card at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Leo Santa Cruz knows it will be a challenge to steal the show against Cesar Seda.

Cruz's junior featherweight defense will be just one of four title fights on the docket -- including Adrien Broner's welterweight defense against Marcos Maidana, Keith Thurman's interim welterweight defense against Jesus Soto Karass and Beibut Shumenov's light heavyweight defense against Tamas Kovacs. Also appearing will be comebacking former middleweight champ Jermain Taylor and two up-and-coming 2012 U.S. Olympians in Jamell Herring and Rau'Shee Warren.

"The fights will be awesome," Santa Cruz, of Mexico, said in a recent interview with ESPNDeportes.com. "Soto, Maidana, Broner -- anybody can steal the show, and I want to be up to that standard. We will deliver so the fans can go home happy."

To that end, Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs) said he would seek a knockout against Puerto Rico's Seda (25-1, 17 KOs), who has never been stopped.

"I'm looking for my third win by KO in 2013," Santa Cruz said. "Seda is a hard puncher, but I will go full-throttle against him, trying to get the KO. But winning by any other way will be just fine."

Seda, despite his sterling record, remains relatively untested. In his only legitimate step up in competition, he lost a 12-round unanimous decision to junior bantamweight titlist Omar Narvaez in his native Argentina. But Santa Cruz says he'll take nothing for granted on Saturday.

"I've never been overconfident against any rival, and this time was no exception," Santa Cruz said. "I trained as hard as possible, because my opponent is really tough. Seda is a strong, hard-hitting fighter."

And Santa Cruz has another incentive as 2013 draws to a close. Within his own country, the list of candidates who might be considered for the unofficial title of 2013 Mexican fighter of the year seems to be limited to three: Juan Francisco Estrada, Jhonny Gonzalez and Santa Cruz. A strong performance against Seda on Saturday could sway popular opinion.

"Just being on that short list is an honor to me," Santa Cruz said. "It motivates me because it shows that we've done a good job.

"I've always trained hard, so I can give the fans what they deserve, which is a great show. They've always supported me. It has been an outstanding year, and we can end it on a high note."

And Santa Cruz, already a two-division titleholder at age 25 -- he held a bantamweight belt during the second half of 2012 -- is now beginning to consider what's ahead.

"In 2014, I could move up to featherweight," Santa Cruz said. "Let's see who's available, and if we can work out a nice deal, we might go for that third title."