Featherweight world titleholder Leo Santa Cruz has a new opponent for his third defense: Rafael "Big Bang" Rivera.
Santa Cruz (35-1-1, 19 KOs), 30, of Los Angeles, was scheduled to fight Miguel Flores in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on Feb. 16 (Fox, 8 p.m. ET) at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. However, Flores suffered an ankle injury in training camp and withdrew from the bout, then was replaced by Rivera, PBC announced on Thursday.
"As they say, the show must go on and it will go on," Ringstar Sports CEO Richard Schaefer, one of the co-promoters of the card, told ESPN. "People in Los Angeles love Leo Santa Cruz, and they will come out to support Leo."
The fight would have been the first world title bout for Flores (23-2, 11 KOs), 26, of Houston, a prohibitive underdog coming off a second-round knockout of journeyman Raul Chirino this past April after back-to-back knockout losses.
Rivera (26-2-2, 17 KOs), 24, of Mexico, appears to be at least a slight upgrade in opponent. He is also coming off an easy win, a first-round knockout of Jose Ramos in October. Before that, Rivera lost two fights in a row by decision, a competitive 10-round split verdict to unbeaten prospect Joet Gonzalez in July and a unanimous 12-rounder to then-unbeaten contender Joseph Diaz Jr. in September 2017.
"I think this is a more dangerous opponent and stylistically a good fight," Schaefer said. "Leo has a target on his back, and if this guy can beat him or make it a fight, it could be a life-changer for him."
In addition to the new opponent in the main event, PBC also announced the addition of a third televised fight. It will be an eight-round bout between junior middleweight prospect Sebastian Fundora (11-0, 7 KOs), of Coachella, California, and Donnie Marshall (10-0, 6 KOs), 30, of Raleigh, North Carolina. Fundora, a southpaw, is known as "The Towering Inferno" because, at 6-foot-6, he is tremendously tall for a 154-pound fighter.
In the previously announced co-feature, former lightweight world titlist Omar Figueroa Jr. (27-0-1, 19 KOs), 29, of Weslaco, Texas, will return from a 19-month layoff due to injuries and legal issues to face former world title challenger John Molina Jr. (30-7, 24 KOs), 36, of Covina, California, in a 12-round welterweight bout most expect to be a brawl.