I'll hammer Carl Frampton with my cancer battle dad back on board, warns Santa Cruz
Leo Santa Cruz arrived here in Las Vegas insisting he has a deep belief that Carl Frampton only has the WBA World featherweight title on loan.
The Mexican has to believe it because he knows that only victory over Frampton in the early hours of Sunday morning in the MGM Grand Garden Arena will relieve him fully of those moments when his mind turns to the dark place of the Barclays Centre dressing room on July 31, 2016 when he sat in a state of shock at having suffered his first loss as a professional.
Frampton's skills and grit had stunned him, taken his World title and left him with more pain than the blows he had to soak up over those 12 relentless rounds.
"After the first fight I was very upset, I was depressed because I felt that I had let a lot of people down and I was so upset at myself because I had lost the fight," said Santa Cruz, speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph.
"When I got back to the locker room the only thing that I could think of was getting the re-match.
"I want to put things right, to beat Frampton and win so it's as if the first loss didn't happen, that what happened in New York never happened.
"There's a lot at stake on Saturday, not just the belt but my pride as well. That's why I wanted the re-match right away. To win this fight would be like winning my first world title all over again"
Leading up to their first encounter in Brooklyn, three-weight World champion Santa Cruz's preparation was hit by his father and coach Jose battling cancer. Unable to offer his son the full-time attention he normally gave, former champion Santa Cruz says it led to confusion in the corner as he sought, in vain, to hold on to his belt.
"In this camp I've had no distractions, I've been able to just focus my mind on the fight. My dad has been here the whole time, his cancer is in remission and having him here the whole time, focused on the fight and pushing me hard and giving me the advice I need has meant a lot," added Santa Cruz.
"I think I'm a better fighter because of the loss to Frampton. I had to go away and work on my mistakes, see where I went wrong and improve. I had to see what I did well and work on that too. There was a lot to work on, I had to improve and I have got better.
"My brother had trained me for the last fight and he wanted me to fight a different way to my dad who was giving me different tactics in the corner."
Dad Jose concurs with his son that the past three months of settled preparation will have him ready to reclaim the title from Frampton.
"Leo's much more prepared for this fight. The last fight, he was just going for it with slower punches rather than staying back and defending himself. We know Leo has the ability to be a big star and overcoming a loss to win will mean a lot," said Jose.
"The big difference is I'm here with him this time, telling him to put the pressure on, not let off. I'm pushing him to be a come-forward fighter, to be a stronger fighter and defend better. I'm staying in his ear."
Allied to the fact that he has had his dad throughout their camp at home in Los Angeles, former champion Santa Cruz also feels that he has brought in the right sparring partners to enable him to deal with the threat of Frampton second time around.
"I think Frampton is going to be surprised by me on the night. If he thinks that I'm just going to fight the way I did in the first fight he's wrong.
"I know they might just think that I can only fight the same way all the time so I think they'll be surprised," added Santa Cruz.
"I feel stronger since the last fight and I've been preparing for everything. We're sparring some bigger guys just to keep me prepared. We have strong, fast and heavy opponents. Carl Frampton won't have anything we aren't ready for.
"It's also going to help me that the fight is in Vegas. I've boxed here a few times, I'm going to have a lot more support than I did in New York and it's like my second city. The atmosphere for a fight is different in Las Vegas, there's more expectation on fighters and I will be ready for that.
"I know what I have to do to win this fight."