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Santa Cruz wins LA bragging rights by defeating Mares


By John J. Raspanti

WBC junior featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs) proved that he belongs in the upper echelon of the featherweight division by winning an exciting 12-round majority decision over former three-division world champion Abner Mares (29-2, 15 KOs) at a raucous Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. Saturday night.

Two judges scored the fight 117-111 for Santa Cruz, while the third saw a 114-114 draw.

MaxBoxing and tabbed Santa Cruz the winner 115-113.

Mares surprised Santa Cruz in the opening stanza by taking it to his taller rival. He banged shots to the body and head. Santa Cruz looked befuddled at first, but still managed to connect with a number of rights and lefts.

Santa Cruz began to get more comfortable in rounds two and three, but Mares continued to connect with sweeping blows. Santa Cruz’s jab was paying dividends by keeping the aggressive Mares off balance. His greater reach was also becoming an advantage. He clipped Mares with a stinging right, but Mares fought back.

Mares, the quicker fighter, tried to box in rounds four and five. Santa Cruz upped his pressure, forcing Mares to trade. His punches were coming in bunches. A stinging right stopped Mares in his tracks. Mares went back to the body in round six, but Santa Cruz used his edge in height and reach to tattoo Mares with combinations.

Both fighters landed solid shots in round seven, but Santa Cruz had the edge. Blood was dripping from a cut over the right eye of Mares. Santa Cruz was landing the more solid blows--while Mares had to eat two punches to land one. Santa Cruz banged home two solid left hooks in round eight that seemed to momentarily stun Mares.

Santa Cruz fought smartly in rounds nine and ten. For awhile he had forgotten about his jab, but he dusted it off and started using it again. A classic left-right combination caught Mares. The former champion fought back, but Santa Cruz was in control.

Mares jumped inside and tried to land a fight changing blow in round 11, but Santa Cruz blocked it. Mares did connect with a sold combination. Santa Cruz absorbed the blow and tagged him with hard shots at the bell. Mares came out extra aggressive in round 12, but Santa Cruz fought back--landing a thudding left to the head.

“He came out to knock me out,” said a smiling Santa Cruz after the fight. “We had to box him, and that’s what we did. I’m very and excited.”

“It was a close fight,” said a disappointed Mares. “I honestly thought I won the fight.”

John J. Raspanti responds to all his emails. Please send all questions and comments to John at:

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