Leo Santa Cruz set to face Abner Mares in rematch after both claimed victories in California
By Richard Damerell
Last Updated: 15/10/17 10:54am
Leo Santa Cruz stopped Chris Avalos in the eighth round to set-up a rematch with Abner Mares as his featherweight rival also claimed victory on the same bill in California.
The WBA 'super' champion has been targeted by Belfast's Carl Frampton, but stressed his desire for a second fight with Mares after a sustained attack forced the intervention of the referee in the eighth to the dismay of Avalos.
Mares, who was beaten on points by Santa Cruz in 2015, had earlier stayed on course for the rematch with a technical decision points win after Andres Gutierrez suffered a cut.
In the early rounds, Santa Cruz had established his probing jab and quickly began to find the range with hurtful right hands.
Avalos was stunned by a left hook in the fourth, forcing him to retreat to a corner, but gamely battled through the round as he traded big shots with Santa Cruz from close range.
But Santa Cruz would earn the stoppage in the eighth when another flurry of punches prompted referee Thomas Taylor to wave off the fight, although Avalos protested that he could have continued.
"I want Abner Mares," said Santa Cruz, who regained the WBA belt with a points win over Frampton in January. "I said if we both win, we're going to fight. I'm ready to fight him in Los Angeles in the beginning of next year.
"He [Avalos] was very tough and I was fighting the wrong fight. I wanted to please the fans and give them a brawl. Once my dad told me how I could stop him easily, I boxed him more and got the stoppage."
Mares retained his WBA 'regular' belt with a wide points verdict from the judges, who scored it 100-90 and 99-91 twice in his favour after referee Jack Reiss ruled that Gutierrez was unable to continue due to damage around his left eye.
Gutierrez was cut in the second round and this injury worsened as Mares landed a succession of right hands, forcing Reiss to consult a ringside physician.
After the scorecards were announced, Mares gave credit to new trainer Robert Garcia and was confident about avenging his loss to Santa Cruz.
"I'm a totally different fighter now since I started working with Robert Garcia," said Mares. "We're going to keep showing that when we fight Leo Santa Cruz."