Leo Santa Cruz retains his WBA title
By John J. Raspanti
WBA featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz retained his belt by winning almost every round over Rafael Rivera at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, CA Saturday night.
All three judges scored the fight for Santa Cruz 119-109.
In round one, Santa Cruz worked behind a high guard. He jabbed and fired rights. Rivera, the smaller fighter by a few inches, sneaked inside and went to the body. Santa Cruz,29, looked to counter. The champion was taking his time and learning what Rivera could do. Rivera dug a hook to the side—while Santa Cruz connected with a right.
In rounds two and three, Santa Cruz bore in and let his hands go. He snapped Rivera’s head back a number of times. A uppercut knocked Rivera back a step. Santa Cruz landed three shots to the belly.
Rivera,24, tried to fight back but Santa Cruz was blocking his shots and making him pay. Santa Cruz continued to outwork Rivera in rounds four and five. He spun Rivera and landed a crisp hook to the ribs. Rivera was trying to get underneath Santa Cruz’s shots, but instead he ate another combination. Nobody could question his determination. Santa Cruz was in complete control. His bodywork was scoring points. Both fighters let fly in the last few seconds of the stanza.
Santa Cruz cracked Rivera with a hard right in round six. Rivera, who’s never been stopped in his career, dug a left hook to the midsection. Santa Cruz kept working, bobbing and firing combinations.
Rivera stood his ground and punched with the champion. Santa Cruz kept working in round seven. His jab was effective. His right hand was mostly landing. Both fighters connected with left hooks. .
Santa Cruz continued his dominance in round eight. He inched forward and moved his hands. Rivera tried to catch Santa Cruz with a sneaky blow, but nothing was landing solidly.
In rounds nine and 10, Santa Cruz did almost all the landing. His left hook was clean.To his credit, Rivera wasn’t checking out mentally. He was losing, and likely knew it, but there was no quit in him. He rallied in the last few seconds of the rounds, hoping to hurt Santa Cruz, but the champion wasn’t bothered. He actually seemed to enjoy it.
Santa Cruz went back to boxing a little in round 11. His hands don’t stop. Rivera was putting everything behind his punches.
Rivera would need a knockout in the last round to win. It’s not in Santa Cruz’s DNA to cruise. Rivera fired while Santa Cruz bobbed and fought back. His right hand continued to score. Rivera was loading up with most of his hooks. Santa Cruz ducked the blows and came back punching. In the last 10 seconds of the round, to the enjoyement of fight fans in attendance, both fighters let their hands go.
“I thank the fans who came out to support me,” said Santa Cruz. “Rafael is a really tough fighter.”