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Santa Cruz family as proud as punch

By David Kelly

Published 30/07/2016

All in the family: Big brother Antonio celebrates with Leo Santa Cruz after the latter's victory over Jose Cayetano
All in the family: Big brother Antonio celebrates with Leo Santa Cruz after the latter's victory over Jose Cayetano
The younger sibling squares up to Carl Frampton during a press conference ahead of their World title clash in New York

To the outside world, Leo Santa Cruz is one of the most decorated champions on the planet but for brother Antonio his success means something much deeper.

Antonio, 38, had hoped to have an exciting career of his own but it wasn't to be as stark financial demands created a roadblock.

"I was around 10 when I started boxing, I was the first guy that my dad put into boxing. I had 34 amateur fights before going pro and I won all eight professional fights but then had to stop because of money problems," said Antonio, one of four brothers.

"My brothers were all small and couldn't work and our dad sometimes had no job so it was really hard for us to get money at times, even to eat or get the bus to training. Sometimes we had to walk for two hours to the gym. We were struggling so I had to go out and get a job to bring in money and that meant my boxing had to stop."

Working in construction in LA, Antonio did his family duty and is proud to say that 27-year-old brother Leo - who will defend his World featherweight title against Carl Frampton in the early hours of tomorrow morning - did the same when ring success began to flow.

"I admire my brother because he's a very generous guy, a really good guy. He wants to help people all he can and he has been like that with his family. Our first house had two bedrooms and we had 10 people living in it, then when Leo earned a bit more money he got us a four bedroom house and then an even bigger one."

Antonio would return to the gym after his brother had chalked up his first 16 victories, working alongside dad Jose who has coached Leo throughout his professional career.

But family and gym life was turned upside down when Jose was diagnosed with cancer and so the main training responsibilities fell to Antonio.

"It was hard because he always gave Leo the advice he needed. Even though he was feeling bad he would come to the gym but when he was having chemotherapy he couldn't come so it was up to me to do the work," said Antonio. "In this fight I want to see Leo fight even better than he has done, I want my father to see that.

"I think Leo wins because he is the bigger guy and we're looking to box and keep Leo outside. We don't want to stay inside with Frampton but to box, keep the fight at distance. He can stop Frampton.

"Leo has won titles at bantamweight, super-bantam and featherweight and has the body to go on and win a World title at super-featherweight."

Belfast Telegraph

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