Abner Mares spars during an outdoor public workout at MacArthur Park in… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )
The sweetness of home is something Abner Mares, Alfredo Angulo and Leo Santa Cruz will each embrace Saturday in their respective fights at Staples Center.
For World Boxing Council super-bantamweight champion Mares (24-0-1, 13 knockouts), finding himself in the main event against Panama's Anselmo Moreno (33-1-1, 12 KOs) is validation.
Mares, 26, emerged from poverty in Hawaiian Gardens to make himself a world champion, a fact he let soak in last week attending an NBA game at the arena.
"This shows I made it to something big, that I've done something good with my life," Mares said. "It's amazing, really, so I really want to go in there and give them a show."
Mares might be too excited, aiming to become the first fighter to knock down the defensive-sharpened Moreno.
"I haven't had a knockout in five fights," Mares said. "That's the thing I need and want to accomplish. I know he likes to make you miss, then box, but I know what to expect and won't get frustrated."
The knockout mission is rooted in Mares' ongoing rivalry with fellow world champion Nonito Donaire, who is typically ranked higher in boxing's mythical pound-for-pound ratings. Mares wants badly to fight Donaire, but Mares' promoter Richard Schaefer and Donaire's Bob Arum aren't speaking.
Arum said this week should Donaire defeat Jorge Arce as expected Dec. 15, he favors a Donaire showdown against Cuba's unbeaten Guillermo Rigondeaux over a Mares bout.
"I feel I've already sent the message I'm here to fight anyone," Mares said. "I haven't talked to," Donaire, "in person yet. That might be the best way to figure it out: just me and him."
For super-welterweight contender Angulo (20-2, 17 KOs), his bout against Raul Casarez (19-2) will be his first since suffering a sixth-round technical knockout to James Kirkland last November, then undergoing a harrowing seven-month ordeal in an U.S. immigration center in El Centro.
"The U.S. government needs to be more attentive to who's running these detention centers," Mexico's Angulo said. "I was supposed to be in there no more than a month."
Angulo's visa was expired when he presented himself at the center. He found himself in limbo, casting blame on a hostile center director and perhaps outside pressures for complicating the process that wasn't resolved until a July 30 court hearing in San Diego and an August 14 release.
"He's legit now," Angulo attorney Lucy Haro said of the boxer, who resides in Mid-City L.A.
Like Mares, the 24-year-old Santa Cruz (21-0-1, 12 KOs) is making his second International Boxing Federation title defense after winning the belt in June in Carson. He'll fight Mexico's Victor Zaleta (20-2-1, 10 KOs).
Lincoln Heights' Santa Cruz is winning high praise from ring veterans such as former Olympic Auditorium matchmaker Don Chargin, who says the youngster might be the finest body puncher in the game in years.
"It's a great opportunity to show what I've got," Santa Cruz said. "I know I need more experience, a fight like this will make me learn. But like what I hear from people about me. It motivates me in training, thinking that I can become something big.