Esquivias eyes Santa Cruz, title

Efrain Esquivias says all his work is for just such an opportunity as a fight with Leo Santa Cruz. Carlos Baeza/Thompson Boxing Promotions

Efrain Esquivias made a big impression when he knocked out former two-division champ Rafael Marquez in the ninth round of an exciting featherweight bout on Sept. 7, probably sending Marquez into retirement.

Esquivias (17-2-1, 10 KOs) is hoping to parlay the high-profile win into a shot at a junior featherweight title. Had Marquez won, Golden Boy was planning to give him a crack at 122-pound titleholder Leo Santa Cruz. But with Esquivias knocking Marquez out, he hopes that maybe he can get the opportunity.

"The [junior featherweight] division is filled with great fighters and champions, but the one guy that I would love to tangle with in the ring is WBC champion Leo Santa Cruz," the 30-year-old Esquivias said. "It will be an exciting fight for the fans. I like to throw a lot of punches, and so does Santa Cruz. It would be a great fight."

Esquivias, of Gardena, Calif., is right about that. The fight also might work in terms of scheduling. Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs), a former bantamweight titlist who won his junior featherweight title by third-round knockout of Victor Terrazas on Aug. 24, is due back in the ring on Nov. 2. That timing would probably work for Esquivias' next fight also.

"This is why I've been putting all the hours in the gym and staying active in between fights; it's for this opportunity," Esquivias said. "I have worked hard to fight a ring legend like Rafael Marquez and I think I have made my mark to get a shot at Santa Cruz. I'm willing to step up to the challenge, and I hope Leo is too. Let's make it happen."

Esquivias is enjoying his newfound recognition in the wake of the Marquez victory. He will make an appearance on Friday night at a card being put on by his promoter, Thompson Boxing, at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif., where he will sign autographs before watching the fights.